Farm Walks and Education

Ashcroft achieved Higher Level Stewardship status in 2010. This gave us the opportunity to increase and improve wildlife habitat on our farm, we have been keen to share these changes as they have developed. We can offer interesting and educational visits to our farm, for a variety of groups from children to adults. Anyone with an interest in fauna and flora, farming and the countryside.

Visiting Ashcroft Farm offers an extremely interesting look at how commercial farming exists alongside the leisure industry and a strong ethic in maintaining and improving a bio diverse environment for endangered plant species and wildlife.

There is nothing quite like standing in the middle of our culm grassland, completely surrounded by all that nature has to offer. The more you look and listen, the more there is to see and hear.

We would be delighted to share this with you.

If you have an interested group who would like to visit Ashcroft or require a teacher pack please give us a call to discuss your requirements.

Provided groups are of six or more people, Farm walks are FREE OF CHARGE

About Ashcroft

Ashcroft farm extends to an area of 77ha located to the west of Woolfardisworthy (Woolsery) village in North Devon. It is currently run by brother and sister, Bob and Vicki Meeson, who’s parents, Kenrick and Jo, purchased the farm in 1961.

Kenrick and Jo arrived with a small herd of Jersey cows. Always forward thinking with their farming, they were amongst the first in the area to make silage instead of hay and to milk through a herringbone parlour. The Lindsay Jersey herd prospered and grew, ranking in the 1980’s and 1990’s in the top 5% of Jersey production herds in the country. Cattle were exported to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Italy and for the charity Send A Cow, to Uganda. Due to family illness and the decline in the milk price, in 2004 the difficult decision was made to sell the dairy herd.

The commercial interest in the farm then centered on expanding the existing free range poultry enterprise, producing free range meat chickens.

We run approximately 50 head of Ruby Red Devon Cattle, comprising a single suckle main herd plus youngstock. These cattle are reared on an extensive system to produce high quality beef. Housed in the winter and fed on home produced haylage. In summer these cattle contribute to the HLS by grazing the conservation areas.

Ashcroft also has a small campsite and a livery yard. The campsite offering a rural break in a beautiful location.

The grassland was previously intensively managed to support a large dairy herd. Now, although not organic, it is managed without the use of artificial fertilizer as poultry manure is available. The grassland produces quality hay and haylage suitable for horses and cattle.

In addition to the productive grassland, Ashcroft also has several acres of classic culm grassland and less commercial ground that is in the process of being restored to culm measure.

We have also planted trees and rebuilt traditional banks and hedges taken out in the 1970’s. This involved a fascinating look back, through the history of farming and land use on our farm many years before our family moved here.

Subjects of Special Interest 

Restoration of culm grassland, that was overgrown with willow and gorse. Clearing and grazing with Devon Cattle to promote many species of fauna and flora including Marsh fritillary butterfly and wild orchids.

Hedge management, currently sympathetically managed for wildlife habitat. This has included cut and laying some hedges and improving Blackthorn and Hazel to encourage species such as Brown Hare Streak butterfly and Dormouse.

Studying the many existing species of bird life, wildlife and plant species around the farm and looking at those that can realistically be expected to return with improved management.

 Looking at the contradictory needs of man; intensive food production to feed a growing population & humane rearing of animals for food. The demands on farmland for the leisure industry. The necessity to maintain and restore environmentally friendly areas of land; only 1% of land area remains as Devon culm grassland today.

The positive and negative effects of farming on wildlife; maintaining or destroying habitat, pollution risks. Also wildlife’s impact on farming; problem foxes, the spread of tuberculosis, crop damage, essential pollination. The effects of the leisure industry on wildlife; off roading, hunting and shooting.