Volunteers are always sought to help with planting; maintenance; flora and insect spotting, counting & recording; and more ideas!
Tarpaulin on the meadow – what’s that all about?!
In August 2021 once the grasses and wildflowers on the meadow had been cut and bailed we placing tarpaulin on the short grass in the meadow.
The tarpaulins will be left down for approximately 8 weeks. Their role is to cover and weaken the underlying grasses, which in places had been competing with the wildflowers we sowed previously. The resulting bare patches of soil will then be planted and sown with native wildflowers and with less vigorous, native grasses which need reduced competition in order to thrive.
An area will also be sown at this time with native wildflower annuals to get an early area (weather dependent!) for early pollinators to forage with another area sown in the spring for a continuation of pollinator forage and colour.
Thank you to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust for supporting our efforts by providing advice and donations to help our local bumblebees. Visit www.bumblebeeconservation.org for further information on their work.
In June 2021, in conjunction with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust we hosted a successful village Bumblebee Garden Party.
The meadow was gifted in 2015 to the Parish Council as an extension to the Green. In 2016, Woodchurch CEP School children sowed a wildflower seed mixture on a small portion, less than 10% of the whole 1.26ha site. It was later decided to extend a traditional hay meadow regime to the remaining area, beginning the first annual cutting and baling operation in 2018.
In traditional farming practice, most hay meadows were cut between June and August. The hay was allowed to dry on the surface for a week or so, after which it was raked up and transported to build haystacks for winter fodder. As the cut sward re-grew, this aftermath was grazed by sheep or cattle in the autumn, sometimes even long into winter. In the following spring, the meadow was ‘shut up’ again to exclude grazing and allowed to grow long until the next summer hay harvest.
This system produced colourful, flower-rich swards containing many species, a sight now all too rare in Britain. The continual offtake of the hay crop lowered the fertility of the site, reducing the pressure of competitive grasses and weeds on the colourful wildflowers, allowing them to co-exist. Hay-raking also released much of the seed from flower heads, helping to replenish the re-growing sward, while poaching by the hooves of cattle and sheep created bare patches where seedlings could develop
Our present-day management regime has to be a lot less intensive than the old hand- scything, raking and gathering system – much less the tending of sheep and cattle. The modern approach is to use agricultural machinery to cut, windrow and bale the hay before removing it, which we have done for the two years since WinBloom were given permission to oversee the management of the meadow. Before this, the meadow had remained uncut and had developed a thriving population of nettles, docks and thistles.
In an initiative to re-wild and diversify the meadow, we have experimented with sowing native grasses and wildflowers in rotovated strips, and in May 2021 volunteers also planted individual patches with wildflower seedlings, grown by the community. Working with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in 2021, we will continue to extend this process to the whole meadow in successive years.
In time we hope that the continual export of hay will remove some of the excess site fertility, while the process of hay baling itself will carry wildflower seeds from the original sown area to other parts of the site.