Regenerative land management for a treasure house estate
Building on its 300-year custodianship of the natural environment, the Castle Howard estate is taking a new science-based approach to land management from the soil up, as it seeks to actively manage the impacts of climate change and improve biodiversity. Part of an ambitious vision for the estate to ‘Reimagine’ Castle Howard as the hub of a sustainable community and landscape ecosystem, Rural Solutions worked with the estate to design and implement a unique natural capital baselining exercise to inform a new strategy for estate-wide regenerative land management.
To undertake a comprehensive baselining exercise to understand the current natural capital value of the estate’s 3,600 hectares (9,000 acres) of farmland, woodland, lakes, and registered parkland to inform a ‘science-led’ regenerative land management strategy for the estate to adapt their management practices to increase carbon sequestration, enhance the natural environment, and support its tenant farmers.
Natural capital baselining was a concept in its infancy when we embarked on this journey with Castle Howard and there wasn’t an ‘off the shelf’ approach that suited the estate’s needs. So, we defined the brief, taking into account the ambitions of the estate in terms of development, community, place-making and the environment. Then we brought together a team of experts who piloted a new approach to map out the estate’s natural capital to establish the baseline of environmental assets and establish the value of the ecosystem services provided.
Fera Science Ltd undertook a landscape assessment using satellite imagery to scientifically assess habitat parcels contained in the estate and ecologists who went on-site to assess areas of the land in person, resulting in a natural capital assessment with 95% accuracy. This, along with an appraisal by the Rural Solutions team of estate operations and environmental impact allowed Natural Capital Solutions Ltd (no relation!) to value the ecosystem services currently provided and create a comprehensive ‘natural capital account’ for the estate.
The project was the first to use Fera’s Land360 assessment tool which was then officially launched at the Oxford Farming Conference in 2022.
The rich data set and appraisal of opportunities set a clear direction of travel for a leading-edge approach to a transformative, long-term natural environment strategy that will both secure the future of the estate as it faces unprecedented challenges from climate and ecological change as part of the Estate’s long term ‘Purposeful Development’ approach.
20 year rural estate land management strategy
A strategic transition to whole estate, holistic land-management guided by regenerative agriculture principles.