Open Farm Sunday 2013 (c) Tom Marshall
Cheshire Wildlife Trust's main office, conservation-grazing base and farm education facility.
Bickley Hall Farm is located in south Cheshire around three miles from the village of Malpas and around eight miles from Nantwich between the A49 and A41. The 210acre (85ha) site provides children with a fantastic opportunity to experience both farming and wildlife at first hand. Bickley Hall Farm is open to for school visits from May to mid October.
the farm is home to Longhorn and Dexter cattle breeds
In 2013, the farm also opened a dedicated nature trail leading off the popular Sandstone Trail walking route to the west of the farm.
The farm is home to our herds of native-breed Longhorn and Dexter Cattle, and Hebridean and Shropshire sheep. The stock spend much of the winter at the farm, before heading out to graze nature reserves and other wildlife sites during the summer months. About 20 Longhorn remain at the farm during the school visit season.
As part of a wildlife-friendly farm management regime supported by Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) programmes, we also produce spring barley, species-rich hay and silage for winter feed.
Our species-rich hay meadows and pastures have ‘wild bird mix margins’, which are great for invertebrates, small mammals and in particular, hundreds of feeding finches in autumn and winter. Other species found on the farm include badgers, brown hares, great crested newts, skylarks and lapwings. Birds of prey include kestrels, buzzards, sparrowhawks, barn owls and hobbies during the summer.
The farm has seven ponds, including those suitable for pond dipping
There are seven ponds on site, several of which are suitable for safe pond dipping sessions. We have a specially-designed tractor trailer platform that we can push in and out of the pond as the water level changes. There is a wide variety of pond invertebrates and creatures found in our ponds including water boatman, snails, newts, newt larvae of various stages and dragonfly nymphs.
Swathes of wildflowers, hedges and wild field margins provide excellent habitats for minibeast hunting for school visit. We also have wildlife rich ditches, an orchard and arable fields, which support many wildflowers and arable farmland birds.
The Countryside Classroom
During the summer, one of our 100yr old traditional farm buildings is converted into a temporary summer classroom suitable for indoor activities. Facilities include:
- Indoor working area for learning, shelter and lunch in the education barn.
- Bag storage boxes.
- Portable toilets.
- A wash room for hand washing with hot and cold running water, soap and paper towels.
The countryside offers an invaluable teaching resource. The visit can be used to teach many aspects of the curriculum through learning about farming and the countryside.
Learning opportunities at Bickley Hall Farm include:
- A chance to learn about farming practices, in particular the importance of conservation grazing in farmland habitats. Children will experience farm animals first hand and learn how their husbandry can benefit wildlife. Thus developing an appreciation of how farming and wildlife can have a harmonious relationship.
- Farmland habitat studies which will involve real life wildlife experiences. These educational sessions will look at farm habitats such as ponds and ditches providing first hand wildlife experiences.
- A study of nature’s harvest looking at autumn fruits and seeds and how this can provide food for both wildlife and people.
Art – art on the farm is an important part of many sessions taught here when we use the world around us to inspire a piece of art which the children can take away.