Summer in the South of England is often referred to as two sunny days and a thunderstorm. We had the sunny days but despite the black clouds the promised thunderstorms did not materialise. With no rain forecast for a week we decided to make hay on Roundabouts field a 10 acre traditional wildflower meadow. Of course the forecast changed again as soon as the grass was cut so it became a race to make the hay and bale it before the rains came.
Virtually all of the traditional meadows and pastures that existed across England 60 years ago have vanished as advances in technology and crops have changed the way the land is farmed. As well as bringing us plentiful and cheaper food this does have consequences for the environment and makes the fields on Lynchmere Ridge owned and farmed by the Society an important local resource.
We make hay on the meadows for two main reasons. The first and most obvious is to provide winter fodder for the herd of rare breed cattle that graze the commons and fields over the year as well as selling to local small holders and stables which helps to defray the cost of making it.
The second and arguably the most important reason is slightly counterintuitive. By cutting the crop of hay and removing it we reduce the fertility of the soil. It’s this reduction in fertility and the associated grazing for limited periods which allows the wild flowers to compete and provides space them to germinate. This increases the biodiversity (number of species) of the plants in the meadow and prevents grass and invasive weeds from dominating the sward.
With a wider breadth of plants flowering for longer during the summer the meadow can support a huge range of butterflies, bees and insects. These act as pollinators for seeds and fruit all over the local area as well as atrracting a wide range of birds. It was good to see swallows flying acrobatically across the field as we baled the hay.
Making hay in the meadows continues a tradition that has been long established in the community and conserves the landscape as well as playing a small part in stemming the reductions in biodiversity and quality of the environment around us.
If you live in the area and would like to help us shift bales around please do contact us – sorry the timings are always subject to the vagaries of the weather. Or if you’d like to buy some bales of traditional wildflower meadow hay (no chemicals applied) then contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org