Since 2020 INCC has been undertaking surveys and assessments to help inform management decisions for wildlife at a farm located in Ceredigion, on the western side of the Teifi Valley. The site is an 84.6ha area of land that was, until relatively recently, mostly managed by sheep grazing and cutting for silage. The early stages of INCC’s involvement involved carrying out a full habitat survey of the land and then discussions with the landowner on how to bring his vision of a biodiverse landscape to reality.

Phase 1 habitat map of the site

As well as the more intensively managed land, the site includes areas of SSSI which house both Water Voles and Marsh Fritillaries. In the 3 years since INCC has been involved, the landowner has enthusiastically thrown himself into the work required to make the land as good for wildlife as possible.

Marsh Fritillary seen at the site in 2023

One of the first jobs was to replace the sheep with native breed cattle, much better for managing land with nature conservation in mind. The landowner quickly brought in a herd of Galloway cattle, and they have already made a big difference, in marshy grassland areas in particular (where sheep wouldn’t go). The cattle have been equipped with NoFence collars which allow them to be directed to different areas on the farm, depending on the time of year.

One of the Galloways with a NoFence collar

As well as cattle, two free-range Tamworth pigs have been brought in; their activity mimics that of the native Wild Boars that would have been present in the past. Their digging creates bare areas of soil for plants to germinate as well as small pools that benefit aquatic invertebrates and breeding amphibians.

The aim for the agriculturally improved fields is to bring back the floral diversity, this is being done via mechanical cutting and baling to reduce nutrients over time, and therefore the dominance of Rye-grass. Sowing of Yellow-rattle seeds will also help weaken the grasses, leading to a more species-rich and wildlife friendly sward. Students from Bridgend College spent a weekend at the site in 2023 and carried out vegetation monitoring in some of these fields to allow their progress to be assessed.

Bridgend College students carrying out botanical surveys

As well as the surrounding land, the farm has numerous outbuildings which are home to nesting Barn Owls, Redstarts, Swallows, House Martins and House Sparrows as well as Pipistrelle bats.

Left: male Redstart nesting in one of the outbuildings

The marshy grassland areas are used by Otters, amphibians, and aquatic invertebrates as well as the Water Voles; these have also benefitted from the creation of a network of pools and scrapes (see right). Water Voles have rapidly colonised these, as have Palmate Newts, and Frogs.

Otters using the marshy grassland

INCC will be involved in coming years to monitor how the habitat management is benefitting the site, as well as overseeing more habitat changes such as selective tree planting, planting wildflower plugs, and creating more scrapes. Surveys for lots of different taxa will also be carried out, particularly for Marsh Fritillary, Water Vole, Harvest Mouse, and breeding birds. Thanks to the landowner for their passion and vision and for involving us in such an inspiring project.