Taking care of the land
Southill Solar lies on 45 acres of land owned by the Cornbury estate, along the railway line between Charlbury and Fawler. We use 20 acres for solar panels, and 25 acres for our planting and biodiversity plans.
Southill Solar lies on 45 acres of Grade 3b agricultural land owned by the Cornbury estate, sandwiched between the railway, the road and a substation.
This is in a truly beautiful area of the Cotswold countryside. The land is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so at the heart of our plan for Southill was the need to create an environment that enhances biodiversity – doing good for local plants and wildlife.
We’re lucky to be working with the UK’s leading ecologist specialising in solar farms, Dr. Guy Parker. Guy developed and continues to implement a bespoke landscape and ecological management plan for the site. This ensures that wildflowers, bees and butterflies can flourish on the land.
See what Guy says about the opportunities for biodiversity on the Southill Solar site - and how we're taking a piece of fairly average agricultural land and turning it into something highly productive.
Our work on the site
We’ve enhanced the hedgerows that border the field by planting gaps with a range of shrubs to provide food and shelter for farmland birds.
To provide food and habitat for hares, reptiles and nesting bumble bees, we're developing wide field margins of tussocky grass to around the whole boundary of the site.
We sowed a wildflower meadow – one of Britain’s rarest and most valuable habitats – in the grassland around the site. This will be a home for rare chalk-loving plants and attract a wide range of insects, birds and mammals. We also inherited a small wild flower meadow at the very north of the site which is estimated to be at least 20 years old, and every summer is abuzz with bumblebees and butterflies. We're working to spread this meadow across the north of the site.
Beneath the solar panels we have established a traditional grazing mix of fine grasses and wild flowers. To make sure the solar panels aren’t overgrown, we’ll use sheep to graze the wildflower meadow. The sheep will be removed through the summer months to allow wild flowers to bloom and set seed.
We have planted our orchard - 60 fruit trees, including apple, pear and nut. This will provide fruit to the community as well as food for wildlife.
Our bird expert has identified 6 pairs of nesting skylarks and 48 species of bird overall. We seeded part of the site with wild bird seed mix, to help resident linnets and yellowhammers.
Each year, Guy produces a land management report to update the board and the community about the environment at Southill Solar. The report includes an annual biodiversity survey of the site and updates on our ambitious plans for biodiversity enhancement. You can read about it on the blog or sign up for our newsletter.