An adverse weather forecast led us to postpone a visit to Soundborough, off the A436 north east of Andoversford, which had been arranged for May. We were fortunate to get a pleasant, clear evening when we met on a revised date in July. We were met by our host Ian Wills, who was keen to show us round himself. Set in rolling countryside this is a real working farm covering some 850 acres. Although the established wooded element comprises only around 40 acres, it is important along with hedgerows and the numerous wildflower meadows in providing landscaping, windbreaks and cover for game birds.
The woodland is largely the result of planting in the 1970s and 1980s and without early management resulted in the loss of slower growing species. Ian has now taken on a plan to thin the remainder to leave the best stems to become an eventual final crop, which hopefully will be of varied species. This should be beneficial in terms of being susceptible to the impact from pests and diseases. While Ash is present, unfortunately along with dieback, the positive approach now being taken should reduce the impact of Ash losses. A recent planting programme at one of the higher points of the estate will result in an increase of woodland area by in the region of 40%.
Seen from a distance, one aspect of the estate that may not be obvious is the high level of varied wildflower growth as both meadows and field margins. The Higher Level Stewardship Scheme has benefitted the estate, which would in any case have wished to promote such development. It provides a rich habitat, cover for game birds and views most pleasing to the eye.
Our walk took in a good proportion of this pleasing countryside estate before Chairman, Mike Hartnell presented Ian with a certificate of appreciation and a tree book. All those who hadn’t had to leave early then gathered in front of a ripening crop field for a group photo.