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A Week on the Estate: Barn Owls, Saturday Club & Lake Silt

The weather remained unsettled this week, giving us blue skies alternating with mid-Atlantic squalls and a short-lived dusting of snow. Despite this, the signs of spring are all around us.


Estate Photographer Damian Furlong bagged a series of photographs of a bold barn owl, one of several thriving on the estate. In the pub field, mulch mats were laid and new trees planted, helping the estate to mitigate its losses from ash dieback.


Graduate trainee Finn Bracey was pictured planning an Easter egg hunt in the grounds; along with tea, cake and laser clay shooting, this will form part of a Family Fun Day on 12th April. Clive from Pell Plant returned to check the Hall’s drains; despite the extraordinarily wet winter we’ve endured, all was well.

On 21st March, we’ll launch our Saturday Club for 13-17-year olds. Ten young people will find out exactly what goes into running a rural estate – learning the land, earning a wage and, of course, working hard. The scheme has proved a hit and is fully subscribed, although there will be a reserve list.


Every Saturday during term-time, and in all weathers, the Saturday Club will tackle a variety of hands-on tasks including: weeding and clearing ivy; leaf-clearing and litter-picking; clearing fallen twigs and branches; building compost structures, biodiverse log-piles and bug hotels; stream-clearing to promote flow and good drainage; and building and filling wooden planters.


We may also offer first-aid training, photography tuition and the possibility of ten personalised, miniature wall gardens. Our young people will be paid to enhance the appearance and biodiversity of the estate, and they’ll get to make their mark on this beautiful part of the world.

Adam Robbins was pictured knee deep in the lake with a long scoop. We’re hoping to dredge South Ormsby Hall’s lake and restore it to its former glory, but first we need to find out what’s in it.


The process will help us honour the estate’s heritage while planning for a sustainable and biodiverse future. A dredged and rejuvenated lake will support more species and diversify the natural food-chain. An influx of native fish, for example, might also give us more herons, kingfishers and, if we’re lucky, otters.


Working with water-management specialists Kingcombe Stonbury, Adam is sampling the silt to establish its composition. If the nitrate and sodium levels are right, we can spread the silt on our fields and thereby recycle the lake’s organic matter while avoiding the energy costs of disposal.

If we can find a brave volunteer, we may also see punting return to the lake. An original punt was found in a sorry state in the old boathouse. Local joiner Phil Codd dried the punt over the winter and made new parts for it. All that remains now is for the punt to be painted – pastel green inside and British racing green outside – then tested on the water to make sure the tarring and buoyancy are about right.


Nursery Manager Leanne Gains climbed the scaffolding at Little Ormsbees Nursery to make sure that work was proceeding apace. The team from Kelsey Construction is making good progress. The interior of the old school house has been stripped, including the floorboards, and there is scaffolding inside and out. The current priority is making the roof sound. Leanne thought about moving her office to the site portacabin as it’s always warm and well supplied with chocolate biscuits. For some reason, the builders weren’t keen on this idea.