Our natural capital is a finite resource. With 7,000 acres of open moorland and 1,700 acres of woodland, we are responsible for protecting and managing a huge swathe of wild open country. We are also actively engaged in protecting habitats to provide better breeding habitats for some of our rarest species.
Bird Counts are regularly undertaken on the Estate to measure bird populations and species, and to help identify what steps may need to be taken to improve habitats further. Bird Hides have been built in the Parkland and at Druid’s Plantation and live webcams used to show images online of rare sights like nesting hen harriers. The Estate game management team maintains the SSSI moorland environment and a number of winter crops and wetland areas. This creates a balanced environment through predator control and habitat management, and is self sustained by harvesting a surplus of game birds. A large number of endangered birds from ground nesting waders to rare birds of prey flourish in this environment.
Forestry management helps to improve biodiversity and carbon capture across the Estate. This is achieved by regular thinning of the trees to allow sunlight through to the forest floor and a mix of natural regeneration and replanting where required after felling. The Estate is working towards management with continual cover canopy.
We manage the rivers Ure and Burn that flow through the Estate in conjunction with the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water. Together we invest to improve the water quality and habitat by taking out redundant weirs that block fish movement, planting up banksides and fencing off stock to stop erosion. The Northern Fishing School and their associated charity Cancer and Pisces bring wellbeing to many new and established anglers.
Moorland management includes re-wetting by grip blocking and sphagnum planting. Wildfire mitigation by vegetation management through controlled burning and cutting. Stopping loss of habitat to invasive species like bracken by spraying, and control of disease carrying pests like tick through sheep management. Much of this is achieved through the Higher Level Stewardship working alongside moorland graziers.
Swinton Estate is at the forefront of research into the future of the rural landscape, and how the right balance can be struck between farming and food production, and protecting biodiversity and realising the value of our natural capital. It was selected by the Environment Agency to take part in the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund to develop a model to enable ecoservices to be sold on a local and national basis via woodland creation. It has also taken part in DEFRA’s Landscape Recovery trial to see how this can be achieved in conjunction with farming tenants.
Over the last 10 years, the Estate has planted several wild flower meadows. These play an important part in regeneration of the natural landscape and improving biodiversity, providing habitats for insect life and ground nesting birds. Working with Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Beauty, the Estate has taken part in the donor meadow scheme and as its meadows have flourished the Estate is now a donor – contributing meadow hay to nearby fields that are converting to meadows. Whilst there have always been bee hives on the edge of the moorland, Swinton is supporting a further 60 hives on the Estate. Some of these will be positioned within a short distance of the new Community Orchard to aid pollination and increase the crop for juicing and cider making.