Prior to 1983 all straw not used for animal bedding and feed was burnt in the field. This helped with the following cultivation, speeding up the sowing of autumn crops, cleaning the ground of many disease spores and weed seeds and returning potash fertiliser to the soil. The obvious disadvantages were the palls of smoke over the countryside and the damage caused to hedgerows and property when fires went out of control. In 1983 the NFU published a code of conduct that reduced the number of uncontrolled burns considerably. Here, as on most other farms, measures such as spreading the straw and clearing headlands before burning, stopped the damage to hedges. In 1993 straw burning was totally banned and a few years before this a tractor drawn straw chopper was used at Swanton and no burning has taken place since then, All combine harvesters are now fitted with integrated straw choppers which allow crop residues to be easily incorporated back into the soil.
Soon after this legislation an ongoing programme of conservation began. This involved the replanting of hedges, the construction of beetle banks and leaving conservation strips around all the fields.
Over ten kilometres of double thickness hedgerow have been planted with an inner, field side, row of Hawthorn and an outer row of Guelder rose, Field Maple, Dog Rose, Spindleberry and Blackthorn and a further eight kilometres are planned by 2014. About half of this replaces hedges damaged by straw burning and the remainder replacing trees and hedges removed when the runways were extended in 1942.
About 1000m of beetle banks were constructed to give dry over winter shelter for insects and small wildlife. These consist of an earth bank one metre wide and half a metre high planted with native grasses and wildflowers.
The conservation strips consist of a six metre wide strip of land around the entire farm boundary, which is also planted with native grasses and flowers, and similar two metre strips around all the field boundaries.
The farm pond, which takes drainage water from the buildings and farmyard, had become contaminated with spray chemicals as a result of washing crop sprayers out and general spillage over many years. When the conservation programme started precautions were taken to eliminate this problem by re-locating the sprayer filling point and spraying tank washings onto the crop or un cropped land. A four-metre conservation strip was planted round the pond, now increased to eight metres. The pond was planted with oxygenating plants and now supports a broad spectrum of wildlife. Damsel and dragonflies are often seen with myriads of pond skaters and water insects. There is also a thriving population of frogs and this year a pair of ducks raised a family on the banks.
Conservation and Environment
Update 2011 Hedge planting has continued and now all the roadside hedges have been re-instated and the four fields that comprise the main part of the farm now all have boundary hedges. The farm pond is now a haven for many birds and aquatic life and an owl box has been built at the end of one of the beetle banks, well away from any disturbance. A few acres at various places have been sown with plants that produce seeds for birds and further undisturbed ground nesting sites.