Part 3 – Hall o’the Heath Farm

(Haslington Conservation Volunteers 1994 – 2016 – Continued)

Details of work carried out at the farm by the group with the active support and help of Mr D Gilbert, Farmer

Detailed Notes to the Plan.     Further details provided as appendices.

1) Woodland Copse and Hedge 2001/02. Around 250 trees of local native species were planted within an area bounded by a new hedge and fence.

2) Orchard. Eight apple trees of local Cheshire varieties were planted in 2003. Two singles of other varieties were planted to replace two that died. Damson and crab apple were added later. See appendix 1.

3) Wildflower Area. In 2004 a wide range of grasses were noted around Meg’s Pond. A professional botanical survey was carried out in 2005 and a total of 13 grasses and 45 flowers were identified in this area and area 4. The grasses included Whorl-grass Catabrosa aquatica by the pond and after checking with the county botanist it was discovered that this was the only known site in Cheshire for this very rare grass. See appendix 2. In 2012 a pond dipping survey was carried out by Cheshire East Countryside Management Service, holding the appropriate newt licence. Fourteen species were recorded including great crested newt and smooth newt. See appendix 3.

4) Wildflower Meadow. This area was planted with a wildflower seed mix in 2007 and although it is now not particularly colourful it still has a wide variety of plant species and is very attractive to butterflies.

5) Wildlife Garden. This area was set up in 2007/8 to demonstrate simple measures that can be taken to improve habitats in suburban gardens. Twelve simple habitats were created and twelve different species of trees and shrubs were planted. See appendix 4.

6) Hedgerow Trees. More than 25 trees of native species, mainly oak with some ash and silver birch, have been planted in various hedges around the farm between 2001 and 2016.

7) Two Trees. Two horse chestnut trees were planted to mark the Queen’s 80th birthday in 2006.

8) Nellie’s Pond. In 2006 a small digger was used to excavate what we thought would be a new pond in a damp area. When work started it became obvious that we were removing matted vegetation from an existing pond, like taking the thick crust off a pie! Examination of old maps showed that a pond existed here around 1900. The pond dipping survey noted under item 3 also included this pond and eleven species were noted, again including both great crested newt and smooth newt. See appendix 3.

9) Hazel Copse. The hazel copse was planted with 60 hazel and 4 oak trees in 2009.

10) Bird Nest Boxes. Starting in 2006 more than 40 bird nest boxes of various designs have been provided, situated all around the farm. These have been used very successfully and a summary of the use in 2015 is attached as appendix 5.

Additionally there are usually four or five pairs of swallows that nest every year in the old milking parlour plus two or three in the loft above.

Since the farm has been managed in a way sympathetic to wildlife the habitat is very good and many other bird species also use the farm, including goldfinch, greenfinch, yellowhammer, sparrowhawk and great spotted woodpecker as well as the common species.

The analysis of Barn Owl pellets included in appendix 5 shows how productive the well managed farmland is for small mammals.

General Notes

Following a survey by Cheshire Wildlife Trust in 2011 areas 3,4 and 8 were considered to be valuable enough for wildlife to be designated as An Area of Local Wildlife Interest and the site was added to their database and approved by Cheshire East Council. The area included is shown on their map in appendix 6.

In June 2009 a bat survey was carried out by a member of the Cheshire Bat Group. Two species were recorded, Common Pipistrelle and a Myotis species.



Appendix 4


An example of how gardens can be managed for the benefit of wildlife.

Created by Haslington Conservation Volunteers and Mr D Gilbert, farmer, in 2008.



HALL O’THE HEATH WILDLIFE GARDEN in 2016 An example of how gardens can be managed for the benefit of wildlife.
Wood and brushwood piles Spindle tree Euonymus europaeus 2
Rock piles Crab apple Malus sylvestris 1
Large logs Wild cherry Prunus avium 1
Corrugated sheet Bird cherry Prunus padus 1
Wood pallets Guelder rose Viburnum opulus 5
Owl nest box on pole Dogwood Cornus sanguinea 4
Hedgehog box Cotoneaster Coral Beauty 3
Bumble bee boxes Sorbus Joseph Rock 2
Insect hibernacula Broom Cytisus scoparius 3
Beetle bank Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum 2
Bat boxes Hazel Corylus avellana 5
Bird boxes Holly Ilex aquifolium


Supported by: Cheshire County Council Countryside Management Service; Cheshire‘s Year of Gardens 08; Cheshire Landscape Trust; Haslington Parish Council


Appendix 5

Hall o’the Heath Farm nest box use in 2015

summary     (2014 in brackets)

Tree Sparrow                    10      (6)

Blue Tit or Great Tit           17      (20)

House Sparrow                 4       (6)

Jackdaw                           4       (3)

Barn Owl                          0       (1)

Squirrel                             1       (4)

Stock Dove                       1       (1)


A special effort  has been directed towards the Tree Sparrow, a species that the British Trust for Ornithology research shows has decreased significantly.  With Mr Gilbert providing good habitat and supplementary seed feed and us providing suitable nest boxes the results have been very encouraging.  The population on the farm has increased from one or two pairs in 2005 up to a maximum of 18 pairs in 2010 and ten pairs in 2015.

Hall o’the Heath Farm, Haslington – Barn Owl Pellet Analysis

Specific Notes

19 complete pellets and several part pellets were removed from the nest box 113 on 6th March 2011.  There were no fresh (i.e. black and shiny) pellets but none were very old; probably between two weeks and six months old.  Those containing Wood Mouse remains were very friable and the bones much more brittle.  Those containing Common Shrew remains were generally smaller.

 General Notes

Barn Owls generally swallow their prey whole but are unable to digest the hair and bone. After each night’s hunting the owl regurgitates one or two black pellets typically about the size of a man’s thumb and containing the remains of three or four small mammals.

In the course of a year, a breeding pair of Barn Owls needs roughly 4,000 prey items (4/night x 2 adults x 365 days + 4/night x average brood of 3.5 x 70 days)!!!

Barn Owl ejecting a pellet
Typical pellet







Barn Owl

Appendix 6


Nellie’s Pond, recovered after taking the crust off in 2006

Some of the awards won

Tom; Colin; Barry Poole; Joan Adams of Haslington Parish Council with the 1999 Award. On FP1 off Waterloo Road. Also won in 1994 and 1996


11th February 2008 on Primrose Avenue planting the tree donated by Cheshire Year of Gardens 2008
Colin: Chairman; Richard: Treasurer; Helen Carey Chairman of CYOG 08; Doris Farrall Chairman of Haslington Parish Council; Viv Waldron local reporter; (Kneeling) Katie Lowe Operations Manager of Cheshire Landscape Trust


Environmental and Conservation Award Winners North West in Bloom 2011. Mike; Alan; Chris; Colin; Dave; Dave Gilbert; Richard; Ron; Barry; Sarah

Various social away-days

Richard; guide; Chris; Tom; ?? Ray; ??; Ron; Reg Shore (visitor) at the Pensychnant Pass, North Wales on 30th May 2006. On the way back we called at Conwy RSPB Reserve and the Great Orme.


Richard; Colin; Chris; Dave Surveying the view from Tegg’s Nose after a morning at The Carrs, Wilmslow in July 2010


Trainer; Chris; Peter; Trainer; Sarah; Dave. A training day at Redstone Willow Weaving Centre, Alsager on 13th November 2010

Bonfire & Food

Bonfire and food: Chris; master chef – Richard; chief fire raiser – Dave; sous chef
Bonfire and food
Richard; Dave; Barry; Alan. Patiently waiting.
Dave Gilbert; Colin; George; Julie; Richard. Well worth waiting for!

The final work day

Julie -the co-founder of the group – with George
Colin with Dave Gilbert







Dave Gilbert – farmer at Hall o’the Heath Farm from 1975 to 2016


Dave; Barry; Julie; Colin; George; Chris; Sarah; Dave G; Ron; Richard. Photo taken by Ray on 4th September 2016 – the last work day!

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