The Martin Wills Wildlife Maintenance Trust is responsible for protecting the wildlife interests on the Estates, its object being the conservation of the natural environment and its indigenous flora and fauna.
The Ditchley Estate is highly regarded for its wealth of flora and fauna and this has been surveyed and recorded over many years. Over the last 30 years, a local lady Jo Dunn prepared an extensive record of flora and this is now being used by an Oxford University PhD student who is looking at Optimising Conservation in Agricultural Landscapes.
Over the last few years, the trust has carried out a number of projects in order to help encourage wildlife on the estate. Examples of such work are the digging out of old ponds, recreation of wetlands and replanting of hedgerows. An extensive thinning programme is underway to encourage more light and more undergrowth; and new coppicing is being protected by thinning.
M D Hamilton (Farms) Ltd, occupies the agricultural land and is part of the HLS Higher Level scheme. Approximately 9% of the farming land is laid to a combination of wild bird and nectar mixtures. In addition, the gamekeeper feeds birdseed in hedgerows for smaller birds.
More recently, the Estate has begun working with The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust who have provided advice on measures that can be taken to improve its wildlife habitat. This has resulted in further fieldwork being undertaken and improvements to both farming and woodland practices. A ten year Conservation Plan is being prepared to set targets for environmental improvement and this will include the following:
- Providing a year round food source for farmland birds by further increasing the area of Pollen & Nectar and Wild Bird seed mixes and by planting floristically enhanced grass margins.
- Providing cultivated areas for ground nesting birds such as Skylarks.
- Improving the diversity of woodland rides to create a graded edge and large glades to attract butterflies and wildflowers.
- Improving hedgerows by gapping up and laying, and planting new hedgerows where these will create wildlife corridors for small mammals.
- Supplemental feeding of wild birds and pheasants.
- Erecting nesting boxes for owls and kestrels and monitoring their use.
- Creating new ponds and improving existing ones to provide a habitat and food source for wetland birds.
We hope that we will see a noticeable improvement in the wildlife habitat on the Estate and this will be carefully monitored through regular surveys and implementation reviews.