A nature-focused mindset to land management
The hope and opportunity offered by allowing nature into our managed landscapes is critically important as we find ways to address the threats of changing climate, biodiversity loss, and our disconnection from nature. Searching for opportunities large and small to ‘put nature back’ is an increasing focus for us and many other farmers, land managers, and gardeners.
A nature-focused mindset can (and must) be applied to all kinds of land management, from productive farmland to formal parks and gardens. Alongside critical large-scale nature restoration projects, the power of a nationwide multitude of small-scale projects could be profound in bringing nature back into our lives and landscapes.
An example of a small change that has made a big difference here at Belmont is our avenues. On the estate, the beautiful and historic tree-lined avenues have been mowed for as long as anybody can remember, keeping the vegetation under control and giving a ‘neat and tidy’ feel. Several years ago, we made the decision to stop mowing. We now allow the grasses and herbs to grow tall under the majestic trees year-round.
Our once tightly mowed avenue has quickly become a world of industrious small mammals busily commuting amidst the green metropolis of vegetation, kept on a constant high alert by the presence of a stately pair of barn owls with seemingly endless patience. Butterflies dancing along the avenue can now touch down on the top-heavy flowers and grasses allowed to mature, flower and seed in the shade of the avenue trees. Whilst ant hills slowly emerge, no longer obliterated by blades of the mower, forming high-rise communities of meadow ants in numbers irresistible to the charismatic green woodpecker, a species in a sharp decline in the UK.
We have saved the labour cost of mowing the avenue at least once a week for six months of the year allowing us to focus on more productive activities, as well as the cost and environmental impact of the fossil fuel required to run the machinery.
On top of all of this, we love the way it looks.
Gil Martin, Estate Manager