We are working towards carbon neutrality. However, for a working farm, there is a lot to consider - water, energy and technology. We have developed policies and practices to ensure we reduce our carbon footprint but we are never at a standstill - it's necessary to continually improve and re-evaluate.
The Reedbed System at Sheepdrove
Waste into Water - A Natural Miracle!Our Reedbed Water Treatment System treats all waste water from the farm, staff cottages and the conference centre. It operates entirely naturally – no chemicals or machinery.
The waste water flows, in order, through:
a vertical flow reedbed
a deep settling pond
a cascade of oxygenating flow forms
a horizontal flow reedbed
a wildlife pond
a willow bed
How does it work?As the water flows through the different stages of the reedbed system the nutrients contained in the waste are converted by microbes and consumed by plants. This process means that pollutants and any harmful bacteria are reduced to safe levels.
The first reedbed is a very active ecosystem. It destroys bad bacteria and also converts ammonia into nitrate which is a much safer compound that plants and algae can use.
Moving downstream, as the water arrives at the settling pond, naturally occurring bacteria take up the nitrates and release harmless nitrogen into the air, reducing the pollution in the water.
Air mixes with the water as it splashes around the aerating flowforms and enters a stream. The water flows down stream to the second reedbed and then a wildlife pond. Here, a long standing time kills off germs.
The wildlife pond finally flows into our beautiful lake. Carp, waterfowl and pondlife thrive in the tranquil clean and clear water - it actually meets European bathing standards! The water that overflows into the willow bed is released here and seeps down into the chalk.
A wildlife havenThe reedbed system was created in spring 2002, but despite its relative infancy, our new wetland habitats have already proved a magnet for wildlife.
The Common Frog found our wildlife pond in spring 2002 and was closely followed by the Common Toad. By 2006 we also had Smooth Newt tadpoles growing up in the wildlife pond and hibernating at Nut Wood. By 2015 the pond was home to frogs, toads, newts, Rudd and Perch, along with freshwater shrimp and a plethora of other insect larvae.
We have nesting pairs of Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Wren, Moorhen, Mallard and Coot. Grey Heron and Lapwing are welcome visitors too.
The diversity of aquatic invertebrates expanded rapidly, with winged wonders including Great Diving Beetle arriving during the system's first summer, and now we have a whole host of mayflies, caddisflies, and those delicate devils, the damselflies and dragonflies.
RecyclingWe take care not to consume too many resources in our business, every action we take can effect the environment in a negative way if we're not careful. So we use biodegradable materials wherever we can.
We produce wool, which is completely sustainable and of course biodegradable. Some of our customers use it to insulate compost heaps or leave it for birds to collect as nest material!
Our cows and sheep and grass-fed, requiring no bought in feed whatsoever, which cuts feed bills and therefore lorry use right down.
The pigs and chickens are fed home-grown cereals to supplement their grass diet which also avoids having to buy soya-based feeds from around the globe to feed them, it means they grow a little more slowly, but this is better for them and the planet.
Dirty dieselOur tractors are diesel powered but we try to limit their use, making the minimum number of passes across a field when doing ground work.
Because we're organic we obviously avoid spraying - a very energy hungry process, which reduces overall diesel use.
Protecting the soilNot only do these measure help reduce our carbon footprint, they save money and, most importantly, protect our soils from compaction by excessive machinery use.
Compacted soil doesn't have the ability to hold water, support root systems or provide a healthy home for invertebrates.