Foundation Farm

Mar 25, 2022

The farm is extensively managed with wildlife in mind, and the fields are especially suited to ground nesting birds. For this reason, we ask that all dogs are kept under control, and on the public footpath, at all times.

As you follow the path through the kissing-gates you will be walking through fields where the grass is allowed to grow sufficiently for Skylarks to nest out of sight of predators. No chemicals are used in the fields so insects to feed their young are plentiful. The grass is cut for hay in late summer. To increase the natural wildflowers that still grow here, hay from Marden Meadow (containing seeds of many more species) is often scattered, so look out for yellow Meadow Vetchling, white Yarrow and purple Tufted Vetch.  


Any grazing sheep or cattle you see are not intensively farmed and help provide a varied habitat that increases the number of plants and animals found here.

In spring and summer you may be lucky enough to see a male skylark rise on its display flight until it disappears, still singing, against the bright sky. Lapwings (or Green Plovers) breed here and in the surrounding arable fields in parts where the ground has patchy vegetation and remains damp. In the 1820 Marden Tythe map, the name of the largest of the wet fields at Foundation Farm was Lapwing Field, where these fast-declining wading birds were, and are once again seen and heard in their wheeling display flights.

Warm summer days bring out myriad butterflies in the grass and on the brambles that creep out from the perimeter hedges of blackthorn and hawthorn. Three species of Skipper – Small, Large and Essex – can be found; Small, Large and Marbled Whites, Painted Ladies and more Meadow Browns than you could hope to count! Ragwort growing in the surrounding uncut margins is a valuable source of food for many pollinating insects, including the day-flying Cinnabar Moth – easy to see as its bright red colour is a warning it is poisonous! Their caterpillars are bright yellow and black as a warning too.

Fence posts are ideal places for small birds to perch and sing, so look and listen out for Chaffinches, Reed Buntings, and Linnets, as well as Yellowhammers calling out for their “little bit of bread and no cheeeeese”. Posts are also used by predators, like Magpies and Carrion Crows, watching to see where the nests are. Hence the need for walkers and dogs to stay on the footpath – a ground-nesting bird rising in panic immediately gives the location of its nest, eggs and young away to the waiting predators.

At dusk in summer there is a very good chance you will see a Barn Owl silently quartering the field for voles. The barn you can see in the distance usually has a barn owl roosting in it. At other times you will be unlucky not to see a Buzzard or Kestrel, and nowadays even a Raven or Red Kite.

Autumn blackberries, sloes (the fruit of the blackthorn) and damsons ripening in the hedgerows, attract migrating birds, eager to feed up for their journey. Mornings are good times to see Whinchats stopping to refuel on their way from the north of the UK to their African wintering ground. Look out too for the brightly coloured Fly Agaric toadstool, and you may even by unlucky enough to smell a Stinkhorn growing in a hedgerow!

A winter walk can be enlivened by large flocks of wintering farmland birds, and the sight of a startled  Woodcock, Snipe or (a sparrow-sized) Jack Snipe bursting noisily from the wet grass where they have been searching for worms.

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