Higher Level Stewardship
Conserving our future
Following an 18-month application process, in December 2012, the Farnley Estate was officially awarded Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) status by Natural England.
Farnley Estates is the only traditional Estate, within Yorkshire and Humberside, where home and tenant farms have all achieved HLS or Entry Level Stewardship status. It’s also rare for such a large Estate to achieve HLS status, due to the high level of conservation required.
HLS is an invitation only status awarded to farms and estates that demonstrate significant environmental benefits. The agreement lasts for 10 years and, during the contract, the Estate will receive regular audits and be required to undertake specific projects within set time limits.
Higher Level Stewardship is about changing the way the Estate works. It’s about embracing all aspects of excellent estate management practices, and re-establishing the natural order to the countryside. This new way of working benefits Farnley Estates, farmers, visitors, wildlife and the environment.
Specific projects include:
• Planting over 20,000 trees since 2000
• Re-establishing and maintaining boundary walls
• Refurbishing and managing hedgerows
• Prohibiting block spraying of pesticides
• Dredging the pond in Squirrel Wood, which is now home to Hill House Angling Club
• Clearing permissive footpaths
• Creating additional permissive access to Estate land
Regular audits, to ensure that the Estate continues to comply with the stringent environmental and conservation elements demanded by the HLS award, will be conducted by Natural England.
Farnley Estates has opted for unannounced audits, which means that Natural England representatives are not required to give prior notice.
Encouraging flora and fauna
Areas of grassland are being maintained to provide a home for wildlife, which has resulted in barn owls nesting in Farnley Estates. The introduction of spring crops has also encouraged lapwings to return to the area, and there are a number of protected species, including bats and badgers, on Estate land.
Within Farnley Estates’ 400 acres of woodland are areas designated as ‘ancient woodland’, which date back at least to the reign of Henry VIII. In recent years, a woodland management programme was implemented to help ensure that these woodlands will be around in another 500 years.
Part of this management involves removing dead or dying trees to open up the canopy and encourage the growth of flora on the ground. Each year, thousands of new trees are being planted to give a greater spread of trees at different ages within the woodland.
Involving the wider community
With the HLS agreement, there are plans to give even more people from the surrounding areas, greater and improved access to the stunning countryside within Farnley Estates.
Local ramblers, anglers, horse-riders and other outdoor leisure groups, already take advantage of the footpaths and bridleways within the Estate. The intention is to open up even more routes for visitors to enjoy. To avoid disturbing nesting birds or damaging crops at certain times of the year, a network of permissive routes will be provided, which can be opened and closed depending on environmental requirements.
This approach will enable the Estate to maintain a balance between agricultural activity and protecting the environment, with providing greater access to the land.
Opportunities for health, leisure and education
As well as the obvious health benefits of outdoor activities that already take place, Farnley Estates boasts a rich history. Several signs of Tudor life still exist today, and local archaeological groups have attended digs within the Estate.
Links with the local village school are especially important, with the Estate allowing and establishing an off-road path through Estate woodland to give the children safe access to the recreation field. Yet the educational opportunities within the Estate extend beyond safe access.
The Estate is a living example of many of the subjects studied by nursery, primary and secondary school children, from history, geography and agriculture, to ecology, science and nature. The opportunity to establish a learning and education centre within the Estate is currently being explored.
Adult education already takes place on the land, with a local training company using Estate woodland to re-train ex-military personnel in tree felling and other woodland skills.
Cultivating a sustainable future around Farnley
At Farnley Estates we’re privileged to have some of the most beautiful countryside in England. This comes with a responsibility to conserve the environment for generations to come. Achieving Higher Level Stewardship status is about making sure that, day-to-day at Farnley Estates, we’re working with the future interests of the land and environment in mind. Higher Level Stewardship status shows that Farnley Estates is moving in the right direction.