Conservation is Lord Barnard's passion and since 1991 the emphasis has been to support and encourage all wild game and other wildlife throughout the Estate.
Encouraging Plant Growth and Wildlife
Together with advice sought from The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), Raby Estates have implemented a rigid management policy to help encourage plant growth and wildlife.
Conservation headlands six metres wide were introduced, which encourage the growth of broadleaf weeds and their associated insects, providing an abundance of food on which game bird chicks and small songbirds feed. The prevention of cleavers and barren brome invasion of cereal crops was achieved by the introduction of one metre sterile strips between field boundaries and headlands. This practice has contributed to Raby seeing some of the highest populations of grey partridge in some years.
To assist the grey partridge survival, plots of game cover mixture, incorporated with wild bird set-a-side cropping, have been introduced to provide the partridge cover throughout the winter months, which helps reduce losses suffered from the talons of sparrow hawk. Within these plots it was noticed that large numbers of small seed gatting songbirds frequent these areas, which lead to a new project which was partially funded by GWCT and Kings Seeds. The three year project was initiated to determine which crops suited song bird populations best. The project has encouraged a wide range of songbirds such as linnet, redpolls, goldfinches and skylarks.
Upper Teesdale Estate
The Raby Estates also includes The Upper Teesdale Estate, which is nationally and internationally known, both for its botany and ornithology. The plants assemblage is unique in Britain and the density and diversity of the birds probably the best in mainland Britain. In recognition of this, the majority of the Estate is a Site of Special, Scientific Interest (SSSI). Such is the quality of the habitat that much of the Estate is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and because of the density and diversity of birdlife it is also a Special Protection Area (SPA). This has resulted in Upper Teesdale being very popular with botanists and ornithologists alike.
Some of the Upper Teesdale Estate forms part of The Moorhouse and Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve. The Estate has developed a working relationship with Natural England (NE) and in conjunction with NE and the tenant farmers a number of conservation strategies are being implemented.
For example, the extensive moorland drainage system that was implemented after the 2nd World war in an effort to boost food production, led to quite severe erosion of the peat in places. Raby Estate, in conjunction with NE and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was the first in the country to reverse this damage by blocking all the open moorland drains. This was done to slow down erosion of the moor caused by carbon or peat being carried away with the draining water. It has proved to have been a complete success with the vast majority of the drains now having re-vegetated with sphagnum moss. These drain blocks, which create countless small pools, are beneficial to wading birds as a source of food and have also enhanced the capacity of the moor to act as a carbon sink, soaking up carbon which is deposited from the atmosphere.
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