Manor Farm is a beautiful 694-acre residential farm located in an accessible yet peaceful rural location near Attleborough on the edge of Breckland in south-west Norfolk.
The land at Manor Farm is a mix of woodland, meadows, lakes and commercial arable land, supporting a traditional crop, including winter wheat, beet, and potatoes. Manor Farm has since been through a transformation. The previous custodians had the vision to buck the trend and allow more space for nature, creating species-rich grassland and fields full of arable flowers in the process.
We plan to continue this journey, enhancing what’s already special about the landscape, but also providing more space for the natural regeneration of trees, creating a more connected series of habitats in the process. We hope that taking this approach will serve as an exemplar model that redefines the relationship between conservation and farming.
"- The previous custodians leave an amazing legacy at Manor Farm, and the team at Oxygen Conservation can’t wait to build upon a vision led by biodiversity for organic agriculture."
The environment at Manor Farm presents a wonderful opportunity to Scale Conservation in a regenerative farming context. Set against a wider backdrop of conventionally farmed landscapes, Manor Farm is predominantly organic and is already part of a conservation focused agri-environment scheme. Existing old woodland, albeit fragmented, is starting to connect and create wooded corridors, with further potential to create scrubby marginal and flower rich habitats. The farm is notable for its many ancient trees whose deadwood and rotting cavities provide niches for bats, birds and bees.
Thanks to some extensive ecological monitoring, we also know that the presence of Skylark (nationally in decline) has increased from 15 pairs in 2019 to 27 pairs in 2022. This is likely a reflection of the establishment of diverse grassland and the reduction in arable farming activity. Grey partridge, another Red Listed species, were recorded in 2022 and may show a similar recovery due to an increase in dense vegetation cover for breeding habitat and availability of both insect prey and seeds.
Gravel pits at Manor Farm, excavated within the historical flood plain of the River Thet, have been restored to provide a home for a range of native aquatic and terrestrial flora and fauna alike. Sadly, the river is visibly canalised in places, offering little habitat value at present.
Our goal is to redefine the relationship between farming and conservation. We will protect the farm’s existing organic certification and work with the land to shape and create a wider array of habitats, improving overall biodiversity, and making space for nature in the process.
The most immediate opportunity for restoration at scale lies at the north-east corner of Manor Farm, where the river Thet effectively forms the site boundary. We have an opportunity to create a more ecologically resilient Thet within the site’s boundary and its floodplain. This will enable a more sinuous (“wiggly”) river channel to carve its way through the restored gravel pits, creating additional storage for flood water and more biodiverse habitats as a result.
In addition, we will introduce scrubland to areas of grassland or arable land with flower-rich species such as blackthorn, hawthorn, crab-apple, cherry, and willow, along with planting a new generation of trees to supplement the existing ancient ones, restoring wood-pasture at scale. This will benefit an array of songbirds such as the Willow warbler, Blackcap, and Whitethroat, and we hope to see these, and many other species return to this landscape.