Page 1

ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT

SOULTON HALL

SECOND REVISION DECEMBER 2011


Soulton Hall ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT

Contents Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 4 Electricity................................................................................................................................................. 5 Electricity: Greener ............................................................................................................................. 5 Imported non-renewables: ................................................................................................................. 6 Electricity: Less .................................................................................................................................... 6 Standby Generation Capacity ............................................................................................................. 6 Hot Water: .............................................................................................................................................. 7 Hot Water: Greener ............................................................................................................................ 7 Hot water: Less ................................................................................................................................... 7 Heating Space: ........................................................................................................................................ 7 Heating: reducing heat loss ................................................................................................................ 7 Making our own Green Heat .............................................................................................................. 8 Water ...................................................................................................................................................... 9 Harvesting ........................................................................................................................................... 9 Reducing Waste .................................................................................................................................. 9 Farm Practices ..................................................................................................................................... 9 Food production and Procurement ...................................................................................................... 10 Growing our own food ...................................................................................................................... 10 Sourcing Locally................................................................................................................................. 10 Procurement: Non-Food ....................................................................................................................... 10 More Sustainable buildings................................................................................................................... 11 Developments and Improvements ................................................................................................... 11 Fareming, Gardening and Land Management, including Biodiversity and ancient monuments ......... 12 Gardens ............................................................................................................................................. 12 Bees ................................................................................................................................................... 12 Bees ................................................................................................................................................... 12 Chickens ............................................................................................................................................ 12


Orchard ............................................................................................................................................. 12 Rivers................................................................................................................................................. 12 Fields, Hedges, Over Winter Stubbles............................................................................................... 12 Red Tractor Farm .............................................................................................................................. 13 Ponds................................................................................................................................................. 13 On the Farm: Other Habitats ............................................................................................................ 13 Over Wintered Stubbles.................................................................................................................... 13 Soil Management Plan ...................................................................................................................... 13 Summer Fallows ................................................................................................................................ 13 Wild bird seed mix plantations ......................................................................................................... 13 Butterfly seed mix plantations .......................................................................................................... 13 Skylark patches ................................................................................................................................. 13 Hedge Buffers ................................................................................................................................... 14 Water Buffers .................................................................................................................................... 14 Coppicing........................................................................................................................................... 14 Educational Access Visits .................................................................................................................. 14 Maintenance of 14 ponds ................................................................................................................. 14 Maintenance of c. 2 miles of river .................................................................................................... 14 Footpath creation and maintenance ................................................................................................ 14 Minimal Tillage .................................................................................................................................. 14 Greenhouse gases ................................................................................................................................. 15 Waste .................................................................................................................................................... 16 Reduce .............................................................................................................................................. 16 Re-use ............................................................................................................................................... 16 Recycle .............................................................................................................................................. 16 Travel .................................................................................................................................................... 17 Guest ................................................................................................................................................. 17 Own ................................................................................................................................................... 17 Farming operations, incluing tractors Machinary ................................................................................. 18 Implementation .................................................................................................................................... 19


INTRODUCTION “Sustainability” seems to have come into vogue relatively recently as a term. But it is in fact a very old value indeed. And it is a longstanding Soulton value. Many, many aspects of Soulton Hall and farm have always held to this idea, which others have called an “inter-generational contract”i. Soulton Hall and Farm represents all ready a millennium of cautions, respectful innovation and evolution: sustainability. More specifically, there has been a manor at Soulton since before 1066, and some of the outcomes we work to today (e.g. management of woodland, preservation of ancient buildings, good farm and wildlife management) are totally unchanged in all that time. The best example of this farm’s long term commitment is in our oak woodland. A rotation is 300 years. We currently have 250 years to wait. Such activities have always demanded a serious focus on the future: this can be heard in an old farming wisdom: “live for today but farm for tomorrow”. The Ashton family, our team, and all of the activities in which Soulton Hall, the farm, the cottages and our other activities we are involved in have an impact on the environment. We already do much to look after wildlife, conserve ancient buildings, work the countryside as an integrated element of our day-today work. More – it is certainly fair to say – than very many businesses involved in similar activities, and reference to this can be found below. But there is a lot more we can do. And a lot more we want to do to. We want to see that our impact on the planet’s resources is as minimal as possible. There are sound long term business reasons for this aspiration, alongside the moral reasons that many would argue. We understand this entails commitment. It is not (or not all) about gimmicky innovation, but more properly a sustained focus on values. The intense competitive and commercial context in which we operate dictates that some of our environmental objectives may have to be aspirational rather than binding (at least in the medium term), and all must sadly be carried forward in the context of realistic economic planning, together with proper research and an account of hidden costs. This policy, which will be shared with guests and others will not be an advertising puff piece. Basically, we should share our genuine day-to-day thinking as we live and work here. It will be frank and constructive about our thinking, and we will value ideas from anyone who feels they have anything useful to add. We will aim to re-visit and revise this on an on-going bias to share changing thoughts, where we have made progress and what we have still to do.

Soulton Hall, December 2011


ELECTRICITY Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. CO2 levels have increased by 25% in the last 100 years, leading to climate change. Climate Change impacts on our farming operations: 2011 saw the worst drought ever recorded in Shropshire. In order to prevent dangerous climate change we all need to start reducing our CO2 now. With this in mind, in April 2011 a full energy review was commissioned from professional advisers. We have acted some of their reports findings, and are looking at more of them. Essentially, it comes down to two things: (1) using greener energy, (2) using less energy. Our energy use can be spilt into: (1) electricity; (2) heating (water and space); (3) farm operations and transport. Electricity: Greener Own green production: renewables: Solar Photovoltaics: In Autumn 2011we added a significant Solar PV array to the farm buildings. This provides to power the Soulton Hall and farm site. In a normal year the arrays will generate around 20% more energy we will use on this siteii, meaning that the surplus can be exported to local households, of which several are our own cottages. This represented a big step in energy independence, but we will still take energy from the national grid (e.g. a night and very high demand times). Consideration has been given to other renewable energy on the farm. It has, for now, be ruled out on the following grounds: Wind turbines: While there were windmills in the area historically, we are aware that this is controversial among our community and more widely. Yet, it will be unnecessary for Soulton Hall to take a position on this as we are (just) within a MATZ (military air traffic zone) and the UK Ministry of Defence will not permit their development. This will not be pursued at this time. Hydro: although watermills were used on this manor for some 800 years, the infrastructure (e.g. 1 mile of wires and races, mill houses etc.) did not survive the industrial revolution. This is not a realistic project for Soulton Hall.


Imported non-renewables: Along with many energy users, we pay a climate change levy on this imported energy. This funds carbon reduction in the UK. Electricity: Less There are things we can do to reduce electricity usage. Replacement of older, inefficient TVs, refrigerators, etc is a good example. All TVs have, for instance been updated to lower demand models. Likewise, most of the 700 light bulbs around the site are now low energy. Above all, those living, working, and visiting Soulton Hall need to co-operate with avoiding waist of energy. Staff and family can be reminded of this value continually in training and practice. To that end, although smart meter(s) will be installed within 5 years as a general policy in the UK, we have asked that ours be expedited and will display its real time reading prominently. We are hopeful this can happen from March 2012. We need to be careful that guests ‘buy-into’ this and do not compromise the quality of their stay. A discreet ‘Energy Tool Kit’ for reducing waist will be published in guest areasiii.

Standby Generation Capacity We have standby generation capacity. It is run from a PTO shaft off a tractor. This uses diesel. It is used only in the event of a grid failure. It is not a green source of power. Its use should be minimised, in line with its strategic and non-core role.


HOT WATER: Hot Water: Greener Currently, this is done by a combination of electricity and oil. We are actively considering the introduction of solar thermal hot water systems for cottages and Soulton Hall, perhaps as soon as 2012. Flow restrictors can be fitted to taps as a further option. Hot water: Less Current mitigation of the amount of energy used comprises: •

Use of timers to avoid heating large amounts of water at non-peek times;

Use of instant hot water heaters;

Lagging of all hot water systems;

On site production of green solar energy for water heating and other purposes;

‘P-baths’, separate showers etc to give guests the option not to have a bath

HEATING SPACE: Heating: reducing heat loss We have to heat a very large amount of space, often in older buildings with poor insulation. Over the last 15 years we have: re-roofed Soulton Hall, and at least part of all the cottage roofs. This amounts to a huge area. As this work has been done, every opportunity has been taken to enhance insulation: all cottages now have loft insulation. Double glazing has been installed in more than 50 windows at cottages, replacing older, less efficient glazing. There are a further windows to 15 to replace which will happen with general repairs and renewals. At Soulton Hall we have to reconcile energy efficiency improvement with a listed 1,000 year old building. It has roof insulation as far is as practicable: there is no loft void. Glazing is all at least 300 years old, with most of it being leaded and dating from 1556. It cannot be interfered with. A complaint option will be to introduce secondary glazing. This will be for 60 windows of exceptional size. We will have to phase this introduction with roof refurbishment to make it affordable. Greater co-operation from guests and staff in not heating unoccupied rooms and closing doors and windows when not being used will assist. Automatic closers have already been instituted on many doors. We have installed thermostatic valves on the radiators to enhance the level of control over


the room temperature. Additionally, selection of appropriate sized dining and function rooms will reduce heating demand. Making our own Green Heat Already, we use open fires and log burgers for space heating. These are fuelled with our own wood from the farm and woodland. The heat produced from the wood burnt here is equivalent to half a family of four’s annual heating demand. Getting at least some of our heating from our own sustaibale woodland does represent some reduction in carbon. Energy consultants in March 2011 suggested bio mass heating replace the oil (modern and reasonably efficient) oil boiler currently used. We have 50 acres of woodland to feed this boiler. One drawback is that the woodland is a serious commercial oak crop for harvest for 250 years’ time. This will fail to protect this resource for the future. The farm would be unable to supply biomass and food. To be run sustainably we would need 1,000 acres of woodland. Our wood is not as substantial as that. We therefore have renewed interest in ground source/water source heating using heat pumps running from our domestically produced solar electricity already available and in excess of annual demand. Further research will go into this in 2012. We would like to have a strategy to replace the current boiler at the end of its efficient life (if not before) with renewable heat from our own resources.


WATER Harvesting Historically, all rain water was collected from the roof, and was collected in tanks on the top floor, before passing into guttering and on to two underground tanks. In the 1950s this system was removed, owing to worries about the possibility of and system failure directing storm water into the house. The underground tanks remain. However, this harvested water is not put to any use. It will be easy to add a small amount of infrastructure to allow this water to be used for the gardens at Soulton Hall, and we should do this soon. No rain water harvesting is currently in place at the cottages. This again would be a relatively easy improvement. It should be noted that Ploughman’s and Herdsman’s Cottages still have working wells, and consideration should be given to using the resource. Reducing Waste Nearly all properties here have metered water. In several cases this was a voluntary choice on our part. This informs us about usage, and we cannot manage without information. We have a practice of routine inspections of water meters to check for leakage within our own pipe work. Taking the house and cottages together, the vast majority of bathrooms have been replaced within the last 8-10 years. Within the near term they should all be up to the most modern standards, which will reflect the high water saving standards in current building regulations. Introduction of ‘hypos’ to older toilet cisterns is an interim measure to consider. Housekeeping, cooking and laundry activates will have a big impact on water use. Staff awareness is important. Co-operation from guests will also assist in this regard. On the farm, only potato crops are irrigated. This is from water from our own rivers. This represents a substantial demand. We co-operate fully with the Environment Agency and other farmers/landowners to manage the impact on the water course. Farm Practices Soulton Farm is a Red Tractor farm and is annually inspected to standards more rigorous than the statutory minimum. We are also NROSO operators.


FOOD PRODUCTION AND PROCUREMENT Growing our own food Historically, the walled garden here would sustain the household for a whole year. We will produce a substantial amount of food in the gardens. We can do more, and to this end the garden team was expanded by two members in 2011. The farm has wild food resources too. We are continually looking not only the fruit/vegetables it offers but also the meat: rabbit, pigeon, pheasant, duck etc. There is room to bring more food in to the household in this way. Aspects of this will have a impact on habitat management, dealt with below. Sourcing Locally In general, we support producers that are local and food that has not travelled long distances, is fresh, nutritional and seasonal. Through our purchasing, we wishes to invest in people and practices that value and care for the earth, the workers and the food. We are farmers ourselves. As a community, we respect the simple act of sharing a meal together. Fresh, locally sourced raw materials are used whenever possible. Very little frozen food is used thereby food miles are reduced. We do freeze home produce. Local butchers are used, thereby reducing food miles. Fish supplies do travel but the price of fish dictates that it is from a sustainable source. Menus reflect the seasons as far as customer preferences permit. Food wastage is kept to a minimum.

PROCUREMENT: NON-FOOD We need to work to ensure that environmentally sustainable products are used across the range of its purchasing from paper towels, toilet and photocopier paper, liquid soap through to toner cartridges.


MORE SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS Developments and Improvements Repairs and renewals to existing buildings improve thermal efficiency and energy conservation are covered above as an aspect of energy usage. Here we want to think about materials and techniques in any new building contemplated. The existing fabric of Soulton Hall gives a helpful indication of this. One of our closest fields is called “the Brickel�: it was so named in the 1550s as the bricks for Soulton Hall were fired from our own clay on site. The farm should be considered as a resource for materials in any contemplated building: we have our own gravel and sand on site. Innovations with straw and timber building techniques may allow us to build buildings substantially from our own materials, e.g. to high BREM and even passive standards. New buildings should make good use of natural light and be sound in conserving energy.


FAREMING, GARDENING AND LAND MANAGEMENT, INCLUDING BIODIVERSITY AND ANCIENT MONUMENTS Gardens The gardens provide a habitat within a habitat. They have an important food production role, see above. Bees Bees are kept on our farm. They assist with pollination of our commercial crops. They also service the blue bells and other wild flowers. Bees Bees are kept on our farm. They assist with pollination of our commercial crops. They also service the blue bells and other wild flowers. Chickens We had a small flock until 1997. We should look at re-establishing. Orchard We have more than 30 fruit trees as things stand. The old orchard could be re-established to double this number. This should be done. Rivers We are responsible for rising 2 miles of Private River. This is an important and healthy habitat (it features in BBC Radio 4’s saving species in the summer of 2011 as a leading example for water vole conservation). Otters are known to live there. In co-operation with other farmers/land owners, FWAG, and Natural England, we are endeavouring to maintain the river as a ‘wild life corridor’. In 2009/2010, 1 mile of the Soulton Brook was bank side coppiced, to ensure the continued free flow of the brook. Additionally the brook was dredged. This was repeated in 2011. Strictly speaking, this is an Environment Agency responsibility. They have not done it for 10 years. We are doing this now as a community of farmers on our own initiative. Fields, Hedges, Over Winter Stubbles We have, since 2000, planted about a mile of new hedge, all in mixed native species. This on top of maintaining the miles of hedge rows we have already. The maintenance has shifted to tri-annual cutting, which supports the bird and other life in enhancing their habitat. On road sides, the hedges have to be cut more frequently for safety’s sake.


For the future we can think about planting more hedges, and laying some of the existing stock. Training for members of our team is being sought at the moment. Red Tractor Farm Soulton Hall is a red tractor farm. We are annually inspected to exceed the statutory minima in terms of environmental and other regulation. Ponds There are14 ponds on Soulton Farm. Over the last 10 years each has had coppicing of bankside trees, and restoration to the pond. These are important habitats. They are all protected from farming operations by margins of 6 meters, where the wild grass etc is not disturbed, save for annual cutting to control the habitat. On the Farm: Other Habitats The farm takes active steps to create and enhance habitat. It participates in Natural England’s Cross Compliance, Entry Level Stewardship and Higher Level Stewardship. Particular features include: Over Wintered Stubbles Following arable cropping, the field is left in stubble. The straw and gleanings are available for wildlife. ‘Weeds’ supporting wild life over winter also germinate. Soil Management Plan Our soil is important to us. We avoid practises which damage it: e.g. damaging soil structure with heavy machinery in wet weather. Summer Fallows In the rotation, some fields are left un-cropped, and available for wildlife. This also rejuvenates the soil, reducing fertiliser demand and enhancing yields the following year. This seems to particularly advantage hares. Wild bird seed mix plantations Areas of the farm are set aside and specially planted for wild bird seed. Butterfly seed mix plantations Areas of the farm are set aside and specially planted for nectar for butterflies etc. Skylark patches Small areas in fields are bare for sky larks.


Hedge Buffers Margins are left alongside all hedges in arable crops to protect the hedge and expand the habitat. Water Buffers Buffers are similarly left alongside ponds and water courses. Coppicing On a rolling bias we coppice small areas of woody growth to flush light into more dormant habitats, and rejuvenate the coppiced species. Educational Access Visits School children and service users visit the farm for educational access visits. Maintenance of 14 ponds Discussed under water. Maintenance of c. 2 miles of river Discussed under water. Footpath creation and maintenance In addition to the footpath which is a public right of way, we have created 2.2 miles of permissive bridle way. It is not a popular dog walk. Minimal Tillage As a cultivation technique this increases carbon storage by 0.6% per unit area in a field. It also creates a nutrient rich top layer, which as positive implications in terms of choices for crop treatments.


GREENHOUSE GASES We need to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) deriving from energy use and other activities that contribute to global warming. Any GHG targets should include carbon dioxide, methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which have a significantly higher global warming potential (GWP) than carbon dioxide (CO2). We are committed to diverting waste away from landfill to recycling. This will, in turn, help reduce methane emissions, as methane is generated by decomposing waste and has a higher global warming potential than CO2.


WASTE Reduce We can reduce waste by buying high quality things which should last a long time. We can further reduce waste by buying products which are sensibly packaged: agriculture has gone a long distance in this regard, for instance in control and fertiliser packaging. We can also look at repair over replacement. Re-use We can save resources and consider imaginative ways of re-using them. For instance, any rubble from building work should be stored for future re-use. Better materials can be salvaged and re-used. A good example is current work in Shooter’s Lodge: the fire place has been built with reused handmade bricks salvaged from building work in the farm. Furthermore, we have sourced high quality antique furniture for the house, which has found attractive furnishings already in existence. Recycle Currently al glass waste is separated by us and recycled by our contractor. The farm keeps a skip for recycling metal products. We should look again at We can do more.


TRAVEL Guest Make public transport options fully known to guests, encourage lift sharing: see current website extract:

Own Work to order for delivery, rather than ad hoc purchasing, so that supplying companies can make efficient routes for delivery.


FARMING OPERATIONS, INCLUING TRACTORS MACHINARY The use of fossil fuel in tractors and other machinery is very difficult. We are keeping half an eye on improvements in algae and bio fuel. In reality this probably requires work at a macro level, but if industry participation is called for, we will look hard at involvement. We can look at the machinery we use and see that it is well maintained, and the as we by new machinery, it is as efficient as possible.


IMPLEMENTATION

Ideally this policy should be reviewed annually. We can publish fresh impressions to let the community around Soulton Hall know how we are getting on.

i

See David Willets http://www.davidwilletts.co.uk/category/social-policy/ Biased on projected production in design of instillation and 2010 use figures. iii See Apendix One. ii

Soulton Hall and Enviromental Sustainability  

Soulton Hall and Enviromental Sustainability