The Dawnay Estates takes its role as a custodian of the land extremely seriously. Sustainability and conservation are major factors in any long-term planning.
A Natural Capital Audit has mapped and measured the Estates’ hedges, woodland, water courses and soils using Google Earth, GPS and Estate maps. This gives us invaluable data to help plan future management.
Here are just some of the projects we are involved with to support our local environment here in North Yorkshire:
Countryside Stewardship Scheme
On Wykeham Estate, support from this scheme has helped us plant and restore more than twenty miles of native British hedgerows. As well as more than sixteen miles of dry stone walling.
At Danby, the scheme guides how the moorland environment is managed. It also provides capital funding for works to reduce water run-off by blocking channels and installing dams made of peat, wood and stone. This continues the good work of the Estate’s Gamekeepers to enhance this spectacular heather landscape.
Farming and forestry can make a huge impact in creating more sustainable fuels for heating. Learn more about our biomass and energy crop initiatives in Forestry.
Native species initiatives
Dawnay Estates has supported:
- research into the habits of the Brown Hare
- scientific research into protecting heather from Heather Beetle swarms
- protection of rare raptors such as the Honey Buzzard
- retention of traditional pasture management techniques to preserve rare grassland flowers
- moisture and fuel loading in heather habitats
A local beekeeper moves more than 100 hives around Dawnay Estate lands, following the best crops for pollen. This starts with oil seed rape in the spring and then borage. He then transports the hives on to the moors for the blossom bell and ling heathers. Tree pollen, such as horse chestnut, is also a valuable source for the bees. During the winter, he places the bees within reach of a village and the flowers of domestic gardens.
Creating new native woodlands
In the 21st century the Estate has planted twenty hectares of new native woodland. One woodland is Fish Pond Wood. Another is Revenge Wood – 10 acres of oaks in Wykeham. Planted in 2005 in conjunction with the Woodland Trust, it marks the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar. The name comes from the Revenge, a ship in Lord Nelson’s fleet, captained by a native of Whitby.
The Wykeham shoot invests heavily in growing crops such as maize, chicory, kale and mustard, specialist wild bird cover and pollinator mixes. They provide invaluable permanent cover, seeds and insects for many species including songbirds. Importantly, we continue to supplementary feed to ensure native birds are fed during the winter.
Grey Partridge re-establishment
One of our conservation projects is to re-establish a wild population of Grey Partridge, a native bird under threat from loss of habitat. This species is smaller than its red-legged cousin, with an orange face, different flight patterns and a distinctive call. The wild field margins around Wykeham are an ideal habitat for wild Grey Partridge.
We incubate around 200 eggs a year, then release the juvenile birds into a quiet area on the Estate. If possible, we foster them onto a barren pair without chicks. They are fiercely parental and usually integrate the young birds into their territory, boosting their chance of survival.
At Danby, virtually the entire moorland is in a Higher Level Stewardship scheme with Natural England. This SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) is important to moorland nesting birds, and unique communities of wetland flush fauna and flora. The moorland is also within SAC (Special Areas of Conservation) and SPA (Special Protection Areas).
Native birds including birds of prey
The UK’s curlew and lapwing populations are in serious decline, with the exception of managed grouse moorlands. As part of Danby Moor’s Environmental Stewardship scheme, we work to improve the vegetation, flora and birdlife. Keeping on top of the vermin which threaten grouse allows key ground-nesting bird species and birds such as plovers, curlews and merlins to thrive.
Peatlands play a vital role in the fight against climate change, storing twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests (Source: United Nations Environment Programme). Well-managed peatland can also mitigate flooding in the valleys below. The Danby Estate works collaboratively with the Common Graziers to improve peatland health across the Estates’ moorland.
A wildfire in 1976 badly damaged parts of Danby Moor and it has been slowly healing since. Heather bales are used to block up channels. The Estate teams also planted thousands of sphagnum moss plugs to help renew and revitalise degraded areas of deep peat.
In partnership with the North York Moors National Park Authority and North Yorkshire County Council, our teams have repaired a byway crossing open moorland. The Estate’s gamekeepers added heather bales to the side of the track to help slow the flow of run-off water. Further heather seed was collected and sown to bind the damaged site together.
Each spring turtle doves fly 7,000 miles from Africa to breed in the UK. However, since the 1970s their numbers throughout Europe have crashed by 90%. There maybe now no more than 100 birds nesting in the UK and their days are numbered unless urgent action is taken.
The Estate at Wykeham was therefore delighted to take part in the North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project in 2019, led by North York Moors National Park and the Forestry Commission. As well as raising awareness, the project, one of only two in the country, provided farmers with a special seed mix of native flowers such as birds-foot trefoil, shepherd’s needle and common fumitory, which is drilled at wide spaces leaving a high proportion of open ground.
“In October 2019, we sowed three plots totalling nearly five acres adjacent to their preferred nesting sites on the woodland fringes,” explains The Estates Farm Manager, David Edwards. “When the turtle doves returned in May, these wildflowers provided the seed they needed to feed on to support their young.”