Mill Farm Conservation Farming (walking South)

Sep 2, 2021

This sluice takes you over one of the main streams that drain Marden. It joins the Lesser Teise just before it flows under Green Lane.  The smaller stream off to the east, towards Pattenden Lane is the millstream that fed the mill (demolished c1915) that gives the farm its name. The channel was recently reopened to feed a lake for flood relief excavated on the north side of Underlyn Lane.

The farm is extensively managed for wildlife. Visitors are asked to stay on the footpath – this is not a public right of way but keeping straight on this path will take you back to a public footpath at the next footbridge. Scientific studies are conducted here so, to protect nesting birds in particular, keep dogs under close control and please clear up after them to protect those doing the studying.

The field on you right is given over to grass for hay. To maximise its benefit for wildlife and minimise pollution of the river no chemicals are used. In former times it was named ’Snake Mead’ – probably because grass snakes (which are excellent swimmers) are attracted to feed on small mammals and amphibians. Meat scraps and carcases from a local butcher are sometimes put out in the field to attract buzzards, red kites and ravens – but, please, not dogs!

In summer the scarce small teasel can be found on the bank of the stream, along with clumps of common meadowsweet. All lowland species of dragon- and damselflies breed here, including the willow emerald damselfly, first recorded in the UK in 2007. Many species of butterfly can be found, the commonest possibly being the meadow brown.

The wood on your right is all native deciduous species, planted about twenty years ago. In summer, you will hear chiffchaffs and blackcaps.  (Please note, chiffchaffs nest in long grass so innocently snuffling dogs can ruin their breeding attempt). These two warblers normally winter around the Mediterranean, but partly due to climate heating are slowly adapting to stay through the winter. Critically endangered turtle doves still breed here in summer. To help them and other farmland birds, additional seed is provided in the spring when food is short. Wide margins are left around the large field (Chalkmead) to encourage insects and everything else that feeds on them.

Along the stream you may be lucky to see a kingfisher flash by or a grey wagtail (a yellow flash!). Herons, little egrets and green sandpipers are commonly seen too – but often flying away because you have disturbed them!

Chalkmead on your right, and the large field across the stream on your left are used for food production. The rest of the land is managed for wildlife. Scrub is being encouraged as it is a valuable wildlife habitat: as well as insects like poplar hawk and elephant hawk moths, nightingales, garden warblers and whitethroats are found in summer. In winter it provides food and shelter for redwings and fieldfares from Europe.

The small, stream-surrounded field on the left is also managed entirely for wildlife – in the 18thC its name was Otter Cape Mead. Nowadays it is a favourite twilight hunting ground for barn owls. Our largest bat, the noctule, also regularly patrols the edges of Chalkmead, hunting insects along the trees.

Dormice are present and boxes have been put up to encourage them. They have strict legal protection, and you probably don’t need telling it’s a criminal offence to disturb their nest boxes – so we won’t!!

Enjoy your walk – please post any pictures (or queries) on our Facebook page or website.


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