Our Biodiversity Vision for the Iford Estate
IFORD ESTATE UP TO NOW
Iford has always been at the forefront of Sussex conservation and habitat preservation, inspired by its owner's keen interest in the flora and fauna on the Estate.
In the post-war years, areas of the farm were deliberately not improved when elsewhere, agricultural improvement through fertilisation, seeding of modern grasses and chemical application was very much in vogue. Later, we would be one of the first entrants into Environmental Stewardship, joining the ESA scheme in the mid-1980s, and we have maintained and expanded the area covered by stewardship ever since. We truly believe in the importance of conservation and habitat creation for present and future generations.
Elsewhere, we have dug ponds and carefully managed our chalk grassland so that today it is a haven for wildlife including insects, birds and mammals. Unfortunately, commercial pressures have dictated that these areas are limited in size but they remain an important reservoir of species richness which we hope can help “seed” the rest of the farm.
In 2020 as part of DEFRA's preparation for Mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain, Iford Estate applied to become one of the pilot projects to support the design of the Biodiversity Credits Scheme, of the 87 applications received, Iford Estate was selected as one of 9 pilot sites, which have now been reduced to 4, with selection based on the opportunities for Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), natural capital benefits and landscape connectivity. We strongly believe that we’re in the perfect position to become one of the best biodiversity projects in Sussex and the wider South East.
THE FUTURE OF IFORD ESTATE
We have been working with our consultants CLM to develop proposals for landscape-scale habitat restoration that covers the entire 1200 ha estate.
Our biodiversity restoration plans will see the creation of a floodplain grazing marsh providing habitat for breeding and wintering waders, species-rich grassland for rare plants, insects and mammals and large-scale tree planting on parts of the farm. Not only is this what is right for the land, but it also gives us a broad range of BNG unit types to ensure that the Iford Biodiversity Project meets all of our customers’ biodiversity net gain requirements.
Our scheme is based on the Lawton Principles of bigger, better, more joined up, and draws on the extensive habitat and species surveys conducted over the last few years, as well as historic mapping to determine land use patterns, soil sampling and hydrological assessments. This ensures our landscape restoration techniques and plans fit within the wider landscape, and echo the land use patterns that have existed for millennia.
Initial Habitat Bank
Work on the first phase of our habitat creation vision started in Spring 2023, with the sowing of 32 hectares of flower-rich grasses at Houndean Farm, on the outskirts of Lewes, Sussex. This will be followed over the winter of 23/24 with 4 hectares of mixed scrub planting. Once the 211 BNG units this provides are sold we will roll out habitat restoration over the rest of Houndean Farm, hopefully in Autumn 2024, followed by Iford Farm over 2025 and 2026, ultimately providing over 3000 BNg units for sale