Traditionally, the rolling farmland was lined with "ridge and furrow" pasture and tranquil water meadows, ideal for fattening livestock. Much of this grassland still remains, some of it protected under Stewardship schemes, but advances in drainage and the desire for self-sufficiency in cereal production resulted in sales of turf (even to Wembley Stadium in 1969) and more intensive arable cropping.
Wheat is the most productive crop on these heavy, clay loam soils, with oilseed rape, beans, maize, and barley grown in rotation on some fields. The EU Agricultural reforms and the likely changes following Brexit are likely to offer further environmental benefits in the farming system, such as flower-rich nectar grassland strips and those with seeds and pods offering feed for birds, preservation of historic pasture as well as more winter stubbles and hedge cutting every two years.
Our area was ravaged by Dutch Elm disease in the 1970's, with many thousand dead trees felled and replaced with mixed hardwoods such as oak, ash, cherry and lime. Mercifully, past generations had ensured a varied woodland picture with many mature parkland trees, woods and avenues surviving the tragic loss of the Common Elm. As in any living world, woodland regeneration continues on the Estate, with selective thinning and felling balanced by replanting of indigenous species. Many miles of new hedges have been planted at Wistow in the last 40 years, and their elder relatives are rejuvenated by skilled laying and trimming to ensure that the countryside that we all love is largely preserved for the foreseeable future.
In keeping with the beauty and tranquillity of rural life at Wistow, we strive to care for the countryside and use sustainable resources where possible. Examples include the water harvesting to large storage tanks at the Garden Centre, use of the Victorian wells to supply spring water to the livestock and gardens, rearing the beef cattle on a grass-only diet, and using the maize crop from the Wistow Maze to feed cattle over winter. Farmyard manure from cows and chickens is used to enhance soil fertility and structure, and grassland is managed with low fertiliser input and minimal spraying of thistles and nettles.
Recently, the Estate has invested in two exciting ground source heat projects, using the inherent heat underground and changing it via heat pumps into central heating for Wistow Hall and various Flats, as well as range of Barn conversions. Assisted by annual Renewable Heat Incentive payments from the Government, the payback time on these schemes is expected to be about 10 - 12 years, but the underground loops and boreholes should remain operational for many decades following the professional installation in 2015 and 2016.
One of the scourges of modern life is the litter and fly-tipping that blights the countryside, and this can cause harm to wildlife and detract from the enjoyment so many people take from living and visiting Wistow. We ask visitors to respect wildlife by taking home litter, or placing it in bins provided – including dog pooh-bags that are used occasionally to decorate fences and hedgerows! We welcome dog walkers on the public footpaths and those fields where access has been permitted, but please keep them under control at all times as they can be frightening to others and cause undue distress to farm animals.
Sign up here and we'll let you know our latest Wistow news, events and happenings that we think you might be interested in.