Meadow restoration is currently taking place on Stony Field at Lower Blakemere Farm as part of Plantlife’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund Meadow Makers project. Stony Field was chosen for meadow restoration as it is an archaeological site under reversion to grassland from former arable production. Birch scrub had begun to regenerate on the field, but as the tree roots can damage underground archaeological remains, it was important to first remove the trees.
A remote-controlled Robo-Flail machine was used to chop the regenerating scrub. You can see a video of the machine in action, along with the farm owner, Phil Gorringe, discussing the role of the machine in his meadow restoration, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvWWkmD19eY
A well-managed flower rich meadow will be an equally valuable habitat to the woodland that might have established otherwise. It will create a diverse wildlife habitat on the farm, act as a carbon sink and is also providing a network of habitat linking to the neighbouring National Nature Reserve, the Flits.
During May and June the cuttings mulched down rapidly and it was decided to treat the birch regrowth to kill the roots in situ and to make it possible to scarify the surface of the field in preparation for broadcasting wildflower seed.
Phil treated the field to target the remaining birch scrub using 1.80 L/ha of Doxstar Pro on 09.07.21.
This also controlled some dock, thistle and hogweed. These species are well adapted to disturbance and can reproduce rapidly, meaning that they can quickly dominate a meadow if left unchecked. The brown plants show the impact of spraying on weeds and scrub.
This photo shows a baseline plant and bumblebee survey being conducted in the field. Every year, the surveys will be repeated (before hay cut) so that the impact the meadow creation has had on biodiversity can be monitored. Herefordshire Meadows also runs annual training events in Spring, which teach landowners ID skills and survey methodology.
The machine below is a carrier; it was used to break up sward and any (mostly dead) birch roots remaining in the soil. The resulting sward was thinner and mixed with soil, resulting in patches of bare earth visible in the photo. Disturbing the sward in this way creates bare patches for seeds to fall onto and prevents the grass from dominating the wildflower seedlings during their establishment.
Wildflower seed was broadcast the following day (24.08.2021). Native wildflower seeds were bought from Cotswold Seeds. We were pleased to be able to get hold of these as wildflower seeds are in very short supply due to a poor harvest last year. This is the list of species included in the initial seeding in 2021:
Red clover, Trifolium pratense
Bird’s foot trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
Meadow buttercup, Ranunculus acris
Common sorrel, Rumex acetosa
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
Lesser knapweed, Centaurea nigra
Yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor
Ribwort plantain, Plantago lanceolata
Self heal, Prunella vulgaris
Tufted vetch, Vicia cracca
The seeds were broadcast using a seed drill set to lay the seeds on top of the soil. To help evenly distribute the seed and enable it to go through the drill, it was mixed with heat treated grass seed to enable the very fine wildflower seed to be spread evenly across the field. This was followed by rolling.
In the future we also hope to add more local species using seed from nearby donor flower rich meadows such as the neighbouring Flits National Nature Reserve if this can be arranged.
Once fencing is installed, stock will be introduced to eat the aftermath growth and prevent the flower seedlings from being outcompeted by grasses. Phil has observed that some wildflower seedlings are already beginning to appear in the sward, which is very encouraging.
More info on Meadowmakers