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Farm & wildlife

Brackenborough Hall Farm is unique in this part of Lincolnshire in its range of habitats and its traditional style of estate management.

The ancient parkland that has not been ploughed since the 14th century and is now managed as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme to encourage biodiversity is linked via field margins to the mature oak woodland and the Yarburgh beck flowing through the farm and on the northern border.

Cattle graze the Park in front of Brackenborough Hall
Cattle graze the Park in front of Brackenborough Hall

A badger pops its head up on our farm (thanks to Peter Goodbody for his photo)
A badger on our farm (thanks to Peter Goodbody for his photo)

The extensive grass margins around the fields, the permanent grass parkland and the rides mown through the wood all make ideal walks for enjoying the farm where guests are free to roam, or to follow our suggestions for walks that can also link into the many public footpaths that go further afield. Free guided tours of the farm and the deserted medieval village are available for those who are interested.

The farm management has always had a large strand of conservation running through it. The farm has retained all its hedges, so the fields are small and brimming with wildlife. At a time when most farms in the area were specialising with all arable crops, Brackenborough retained its grassland and herd of breeding cattle, which provides a traditional backdrop to the view from the Hall and lawn across the moat. Away from the Hall, Coach House, parkland and farmyard, the farm is primarily an arable farm growing wheat, barley, oilseed rape and beans, with a large proportion of this production being exported via the nearby east coast ports.

Walking around the farm
Walking around the farm

The cattle are friendly but inquisitive
The cattle are friendly but inquisitive

Due to the sympathetic management the farm has abundant wildlife. Ian Kingswood, who works on the farm, conducts surveys for the British Trust for Ornithology. As he says in his annual report, “farming practises and the way the farm produces its crops has resulted in the bird population and species total increasing every year.” You may see barn owls flying the hedges and dykes, little owls sitting on the park road or in the trees nearby and tawny owls living near the Coach House – you may even be able to engage one in conversation! Other birds seen regularly or resident include kestrels, sparrow hawks, buzzards and you may catch a glimpse of the kingfisher at our fishing pond. Large numbers of lapwings have also made a welcome return, commonly seen in the park and breeding elsewhere on the farm. The distinctive song of the many skylarks is a feature of farm walks.

A tawny owl chick and woodpecker are ringed for the British Trust for Ornithology at Brackenborough
A tawny owl chick and woodpecker are ringed for the BTO at Brackenborough

In addition to the varied and abundant bird population, the number and species of mammals continues to increase. We have huge numbers of badgers. Go out on warm summer evenings, be patient and quiet and you will almost certainly see them. The woodland has resident roe deer that we often see grazing the crops or our bales if we’ve left them out! There are also numerous hares, having increased hugely in number in the last 15 years, along with excessive numbers of rabbits. Any or all of these may be seen when out walking on the farm, and you may just see a fox out patrolling his territory.

With the farm Countryside Stewardship and other environmental schemes and sympathetic wildlife management, the range of plants and abundance of biodiversity in the hedges and woodland are increasing. With hedges and verges not now being mown as often as in the past, the spring is an explosion of colour and flowers – the highlights being the blackthorn and hawthorn flowering in spring along with an increasing area of orchids and in winter the resulting hawthorn berries and sloes on the blackthorn decorate the hedges with autumn and winter colour while providing a valuable feed source for the bird population. It is this holistic approach to countryside and environmental management that leads to the increasing population of all the wildlife types mentioned above.

An orchid in springtime
An orchid in springtime

A family picnic in the combine field
A family picnic in the combine field

We hope that guests will see that by farming this way, farming and countryside management can be done in such a way as to benefit all – producing safe, wholesome, traceable food and doing so in such a way as to allow for numerous species of plants, birds and other animals to share our beautiful estate.