Our estate is a unique habitat and rich in biodiversity. Recently we discovered thousands of rare forest honeybees have made the estate their home; these could be the last wild descendants of Britain’s native honeybee population.
Working closely with bee conservationist, Filipe Salbany, we have found 50 colonies so far across our 400-acre estate. Filipe has found the bees have taken a particular liking to nesting in our ancient oak forest, where some of the trees are over 1000 years old.
Our bees are also different to the standard honeybee you have come to know and love. The ones on our estate are smaller, furrier and darker than the honeybees found in managed beehives. They are also believed to be related to the indigenous wild honeybees that foraged the English countryside for centuries. Until now, it was presumed all these bees had been completely wiped out by disease and competition from imported species. Over the coming months we will bring you regular updates on new discoveries about these unique bees.
Our Green Projects
To help us combat climate change, we need to undertake projects that will help us reduce our carbon footprint. Carbon reduction is the primary focus at Blenheim, but we also need to invest in projects that will help us offset the carbon we cannot eliminate, such as the new solar farm at Weaveley and our river and floodplain project in the Dorn Valley.
We were recently awarded highly commended status at the Energy Managers Association awards under the category Net Zero Strategy of the year.
Taking Blenheim off-grid is now one step closer with work beginning on our new solar farm north east of Woodstock.
The 6.5 hectare site, on former agricultural land, will produce enough electricity to power up to 721 homes and is one of the first steps in our aim to become carbon neutral by 2027. The delivery of this project will ensure we meet our goal of becoming a net generator of green energy as a result.
Solar is a clean, green, and renewable source of energy, and will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Once the panels are installed, they are pollution-free and cause no greenhouse gases to be emitted.
As part of the project, additional native trees and hedgerows will be planted and fencing around the farm’s perimeter will include ‘mammal holes’ to allow wildlife access to foraging habitats. Felipe our bee conservationist will also be working with the team to create habitats for bees beneath the solar panels, thereby improving the biodiversity of the field further.
Ground-breaking Partnership to reconnect floodplain
We recently joined forces with the Environment Agency, Thames Water and the Evenlode Catchment Partnership in a unique partnership to help restore one of Oxfordshire’s most important floodplains.
Naturally functioning rivers and floodplains are a good way to carbon offset and can absorb carbon from the atmosphere. The intervention will help us adapt to climate change and improve the quality of our water courses.
The project involves using a series of natural barriers to control the flow of water in the River Dorn, in much the same way beavers would have done in the past. Manmade drains have been blocked, fallen trees placed in the water and a series of punches cut into the riverbank to naturally flood into the surrounding water meadows and slow the flow downstream.
In addition to significantly improving the habitat for wildlife, the project will also help to prevent flooding further downstream and reduce the build-up of silt and nutrients into our iconic Queen Pool.