The specially created wildlife area, which will extend to approximately an acre in size, will run alongside the popular Strawberry Line cycle and footpath in Sandford, with family-run cider maker Thatchers hoping it will make a real contribution to the local environment and the biodiversity of the area.
Two areas of coppice woodland will border a central grassland plateau. Planting of 169 trees and hedges includes native species such as hawthorn and hazel, English oak and field maple, together with more planting of grasses and nectar-rich wildflowers. This planting will help create sheltered micro-habitats, and will aid the important retention of a dark corridor for bats and other wildlife.
A special group of ten trees along The Strawberry Line has been planted and dedicated to the Queens Green Canopy campaign, celebrating the Platinum Jubilee in 2022.
With its 500 acres of Somerset apple orchard, Thatchers is already home to a diverse habitat, and at Myrtle Farm has recorded 13 species of bat, as well as birds which are on the BOCC (Birds of Conservation Concern) Red and Amber lists, including house sparrow and redwing, grey wagtail and mistle thrush. It is hoped that the new conservation area will become a familiar home to many of these species, with the trees and plants selected to create a protected and foraging-rich haven.
“It’s important to us to maintain the biodiversity of our site here at Myrtle Farm,” says Gary Delafield, Operations Director at Thatchers. “As a cider maker rooted in the rural community, we’ve always been surrounded by trees and farmland, and recognise the role that a biodiverse environment plays. Myrtle Farm is already a very vibrant place for wildlife, and with this new conservation area, we’ll be increasing its biodiversity by over 85%.”
The habitat is expected provide a picturesque and interesting stop off point along the Strawberry Line, which is designated as a public footpath running alongside Myrtle Farm.
Thatchers has been working closely with the Avon Wildlife Trust in creating the area, together with arboricultural consultancy Cambium.
Fifth generation cider maker Eleanor Thatcher has been closely involved in the planning of the conservation area.
“Myrtle Farm is where I’ve grown up, and I’ve been used to seeing animals such as deer and hare in the orchards from an early age. It’s so important for us to encourage wildlife at Myrtle Farm,” she says. “This new conservation area will bring the wildlife right into the heart of Myrtle Farm, and we can’t wait to see which visitors will be the first to arrive in the Spring.”
Thatchers and the Avon Wildlife Trust will be erecting information boards alongside the conservation area, featuring more detail about the planting and resident wildlife.
Eleanor concludes, “We are no strangers to planting trees – in fact over the last decade Thatchers has planted some 158,000 apple trees in our orchards. And in 2022 we’re continuing to donate hundreds of apple trees to organisations and charities taking part in our Community Orchard Project. Our orchards are already havens for wildlife, but this conservation area is extra special, creating a new protected habitat for birds, animals and insects here at Myrtle Farm.”