The vast majority of agricultural land across both Estates is let to tenant farmers.
The Wheler Foundation has a close relationship with these farmers who manage the land with the environment in mind whilst still maintaining a viable farming business.
There are a number of environmental stewardship agreements on the Estates including Entry and Higher Level Stewardship Agreements.
These agreements involve various management options including buffer strips around arable land and hedgerow cutting schedules, the majority of the options promote and maintain wildlife habitat. This management is made possible by the involvement of the farmers who manage the land in the specific manner required by the Stewardship Agreements.
The Higher Level Stewardship Agreement on the Ledston Estate is a 10 year plan to improve wildlife diversity and habitat through specific management and improvement to the parkland, parkland trees and historic boundaries.
The parkland that surrounds Otterden Place is something quite special, over the years however the parkland has become to look slightly tired and in need of some attention. We are currently in the process of undergoing a ‘Parkland Restoration Scheme’ under Countryside Stewardship, the scheme will look to restore and replenish the parkland into the same landscape it once was when the Wheler family resided there.
Various actions will include giving the beautiful Beech tree avenue some attention, as well as the Lime tree avenue running parallel. These are not the only trees within the park receiving attention, the veteran trees will be surveyed to ensure they are in the best condition they can be, hopefully enabling them to stand proud for many more years to come. The gate posts leading into to Otterden Places itself will be restored, solid Oak or Acoya will be used to re-establish the original gatepost entrance. Along with the aforementioned, there will be many other aspects of the parkland repaired and reinstated to how it should look, and would have looked, all those years ago.
The restoration scheme not only looks to enhance the park visually, but to also enhance the biodiversity and habitat range within the parkland. We will be planting many more trees of various species native to the park, as well as planting a wild flower meadow.
The priority of this restoration scheme has been developed in conjunction with Natural England and a local historian, of whom specialises in historic landscapes.
A forestry management plan is in place across the Estate woodland – this is managed in-house and involves planting and thinning schemes amongst other initiatives. As an on going project, roadside trees and those around public access areas are surveyed and continually monitored with associated works being carried out.
To the southern end of the Ledston Estate there is an area of wetland which borders Fairburn Ings an RSPB nature reserve and is home to a large variety of bird species, a very important site for breeding and wintering wildfowl.
Ledsham and Otterden Estates are home to various protected areas, a large proportion of the Ledston Estate is within a Conservation Area, along with two Sites of Special Scientific Interest near Ledsham, one of which is Ledsham Bank Nature Reserve. These two SSSIs are currently let to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, here the plant life and biodiversity are able to thrive.
The majority of the Otterden Estate is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this ensures the beautiful landscape is protected and enhanced in the manor that it should be.
Ledsham Banks Nature Reserve is located off Holyrood Lane, Ledsham. The site is home to various rare species such as the vivid spikes of pyrmaidal, common spotted and fragrant orchids, creating a beautiful sight throughout June and July. The Site of Special Scientific Interest is situated on magnesium limestone, therefore creating the perfect habitat for limestone loving plants which are rare in Yorkshire, including hoary plantain, yellow-wort, and the impressive stands of the bright yellow dyer’s greenweed.
Butterflies have been recorded in surprisingly high numbers, in a large variety of species including small and large skippers, common and holly blues and well as commas. The nature reserve is managed in a manor that enhances the limestone grassland by controlling invasive scrub and weeds species through the grazing of cattle and sheep during the winter months, by a local farmer of the Ledston Estate.