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More of the usual winter activities
We were glad that the cold, windy weather had moved on and we had a pleasant time on various tasks in the meadow. Activities included coppicing hazels, continuing with hedge-laying and cutting off dogwood suckers, but the main job was removing brambles from around and over the trees and hedge. The long strands of bramble were used to build up the dead hedge near the cycle path.
A variety of activities on a cool, sunny morning
Plenty of people met for the tasks today. We planted Greater Stitchwort plugs and bluebell bulbs in patches at the base of the hedgeline, cleaned up pots and trays used for this season's plants, and laid a section of hedge - a good morning's work!
Over the last few weeks we have planted up to a thousand wildflowers into the meadow. Most of these were grown from seed which we have collected from the meadow in the past year or so.
The local farmer cut and baled the hay last week, taking the bales away. It is a great pity that the hay cannot be used as food or bedding for the animals. This is due to a few irresponsible dog-owners not clearing up after their pets. Apparently, the pathogens in dog's muck can kill calves.
This morning's main task was starting to rake up the bits of hay that the machinery had left behind, so reducing the soil's fertility and revealing the bare patches in which we can place our many plug plants in the coming weeks.
The usual tidying back of nettles and brambles was also done along the hedge.
P.S. The remainder of the loose hay was raked up during morning and afternoon sessions on the 5th.
The meeting, attended by ten members of the group, was held at the local pub. We discussed the steady progress in the meadow, how the grasses were not as vigorous this year (perhaps due to the dry spring) enabling the wildflowers to be more visible and that we will have plenty of work to do once the farmer has managed to cut and remove the hay. Michael said that although seed germination had been patchy for some species there will still be about a thousand plugs to plant out next month after we have raked up leftover hay.
The list of activities done and wildflower seeds planted during the last 11 months are available here.
We thanked Chris for all her hard work as secretary over the 13 years that the group has existed as she is passing the job on to Kip.
The updated design, text and photos for the Interpretation Board was examined and approved with minor changes. Katy has done a fine job but we still have to decide on the printing, finishing and assembly to ensure that the board is as waterproof and vandal-proof as possible. Then we will replace the existing board at the bridge entrance to the meadow.
A damp morning in the meadow
Half a dozen of us tidied up all the pathways by cutting back the brambles and pulling out stinging nettles and we removed some hog weed heads. The annual hay cut by the local farmer will be the next activity in the meadow.
Everything is growing with all this rain!
What with all this rain, interspersed with warm, sunny days, the vegetation is growing fast. We spent the morning mowing the paths, trimming back overhanging brambles and nettles from the paths, scything young nettles, pulling up old nettles and moving the cuttings to the compost heaps. By removing the grass and nettles the idea is to weaken them and to reduce the fertility of the meadow which then gives the wild flowers a chance since they prefer low-fertility soils. We have to be patient as this process takes years on a field such as this, but over time we have made a difference and we are pleased when passers-by comment on the progress.
Now that many of the wild flowers have flowered and set seed this summer, another task was gathering seed heads, including that of Field Scabious and Black Knapweed, to dry off and sow for planting out next year.
Big Butterfly Count in the meadow
Michael did a survey this morning for the Big Butterfly Count. There was a good range of species but numbers were down on previous years: Small Skipper 4, Large White 1, Small White 1, Green-veined White 1, Common Blue 4 (including a mating pair - see Gallery photo), Small Copper 1 (first for a good number of years - see Gallery photo), Peacock 1, Red Admiral 2, Comma 1, Small Tortoiseshell 1, Meadow Brown 22, Gatekeeper 20, Ringlet 4, Speckled Wood 1.
Sunny picnic in the meadow
After an hour or so of mowing, scything, raking, lopping and cutting various vegetation including grass, brambles, nettles, cleavers, hedge branches and dock seed heads, a dozen or so of us plus some partners enjoyed a picnic of shared food in the sunshine by the log at the far end of the meadow. A very enjoyable morning!
Potting and clearing
We were joined by over a dozen people this morning: some only able to participate for a short time but any help is welcome.
At Michael and Angela's place many more plug plants were potted up, mainly Black Knapweed, while in the meadow the paths were mown, nettles pulled and various vegetation cleared, especially where overhanging the path beside the hedge.
The final FreshWaterWatch survey on the River Avon was completed, which showed that there is a moderate nitrate problem in the water: causes upstream could be fertiliser runoff, sewage discharge and livestock activities.
Pots and nettles ...
A good turnout of nearly a dozen people meant lots of work done. We pricked out a great many seedlings of wildflowers into small pots, including selfheal and yarrow, which we can plant out into the meadow in the autumn. A lot of nettles were pulled up from the far end of the meadow in our never-ending battle to reduce the fertility of the meadow to allow the wildflowers to flourish.
A pleasant spring morning in the meadow
Nearly a dozen people enjoyed a fine morning tidying up the meadow in the sunshine. Some of the group stacked branches and twigs, left from the coppicing and hedge-laying activities last month, into habitat piles for invertebrates etc. Other people scythed grass near the trees and mowed nettles and hog weed to reduce the fertility of the soil. Another job was trimming brambles encroaching onto the path beside the hedge and yet another job was spot-spraying large hog weed plants to stop them spreading.
Final tasks of the winter season
On a 'March winds'/'April showers' sort of a morning about nine of us worked on a few tasks in the meadow. There was the final hedge laying for the season. We have now completed it along a large part of the hedge that we planted over ten years ago. This activity creates a thicker, lower habitat for birds to nest and invertebrates to forage.
We also coppiced another hazel from the trees alongside the cycle path. This opens up the canopy a bit to enable more light to reach the ground there for primroses and violets that we had planted.
The dead hedge half way down to the bridge was redone using brambles cleared last month and there was the inevitable litter-pick.
Coppicing, hedging, clearing and tidying
We had lots of help today and managed to get plenty done. This winter we have welcomed several new faces and hope they enjoyed working in the meadow.
There was coppicing of a large hazel in the copse by the cycle path which led to generating plenty of stakes for use in the hedge laying and that led to several more metres of laid hedge on the southern edge.
More encroaching brambles were pulled up and gathered ready to re-make the dead hedge halfway down the copse.
Angela set to with the litter-picker and filled two sacks of rubbish from all around the meadow, not a pleasant job!
Three of us spent time beside the river doing a survey for FreshWaterWatch, measuring nitrate and phosphate levels and turbidity in the Avon. We hope to complete the survey with four more visits over the coming months.
While on the task morning we heard and saw a Song Thrush in the trees and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying across the meadow, plus a Kingfisher flying down the river and diving for fish.
Attacking the brambles
There was a good turnout of eight people for the January task day, delayed from the 1st due to holiday-time and wet weather. The brambles and their runners, encroaching onto the grassland and top path, were cut and pulled up.