Micklefield Hall was bought by my wife Anna’s parents in 1967, from the Clutterbuck family. The estate comprised 350 acres of farmland and forestry. In 1998, Anna and I took over the estate with our children. It was soon clear that, like many other farms, we would need to diversify the business to generate the income to restore and maintain the land and buildings to a high standard. And so, in 1999 the wedding business was born, along with our 4th child, Hugo.
Forestry and parkland
Today at Micklefield, there is about 100 acres of forestry, which we have significantly increased to this level over the past 20 years, with the planting of over 50,000 trees. About 10% of the estate is parkland and another 10% wild bird cover or ground left undisturbed for wildlife. The remainder is grassland for grazing cattle for beef production and an area of about 20 acres by the river where we grow cricket bat willow.
Wildlife and conservation on our estate
We farm primarily for the benefit of wildlife and conservation because our land it is not highly productive agricultural land and so is better farmed with grass for grazing. Creating the right environment for wildlife is high on our agenda and we are really pleased with the biodiversity we see on the farm today. For instance, the new woodlands that we have planted, extend and join up the ancient woodland so that wildlife can move freely undercover. Wild areas are left and produce a vast diversity of fauna and flora which improves the food chain and enables a broader range of species, particularly birds, to thrive. We even saw the return of roe and muntjac deer which we regularly see grazing on the lower lawns.
Woodland, cultivation and wildlife
By following the ideals of conservation agriculture, no ploughing, green cover all year, reduced use of chemicals and use of natural fertilizer, we aim for the best of both worlds. Producing food but also looking after the natural environment for future generations. Managing the woodland for timber production means that they are properly looked after and become an asset to the Estate. They also act as a sanctuary for wildlife and of course help to lock up that carbon from the atmosphere. As a society, I feel, we should be moving back to using timber as a building material, thus permanently seizing carbon, but also making timber more valuable, which in turn will lead to more woodland being grown.
I believe that those of us lucky enough to be caretakers of land have a responsibility to pass it on to future generations in a better condition for both food production and the benefit of the environment.