Meadow walk at Far House Farm – the power of natural regeneration to restore a mosaic of meadow, pasture, woodland and orchard

The final meadow walk of the season was at Far House Farm, Maescoed on 11th July with many thanks to our hosts and generous Herefordshire Meadows supporters Joanna and Bruce Jenkyn Jones.  We started next to lovely flowery strips of meadow plants beside the drive that were created after nearby building work and were treated to a scything demo there at the end of the walk by the host of a forthcoming Scything Festival .

The walk took us through a meadow successfully enhanced from former pasture (2021 as part of Herefordshire Meadows and Plantlife GRCF Meadow Makers project). This field now has abundant yellow rattle and a good range of flowers establishing including ox eye daisy, knapweed, cat’s ear, hawkbits, bird’s foot trefoil and lesser stitchwort as well as the plants that were present in the original sward. You can read more about the Restoration method used.

We continued through shelter belts and young woodland with glades and rides (funded through Herefordshire Council’s Natural Flood Management grant for the Dulas Catchment in this case + 6 other catchments with advice from Wye and Usk Foundation).

Moving on to a bush orchard planted by previous owners producing apple juice and managed as wood meadow with Bruce mowing hay and a local farmer baling between the tree rows . Here the meadow is well established with a wider range of plants, many different brown butterflies and marbled white and some interesting wet flushes too. The challenges of grazing and mowing a bush orchard are not to be underestimated and members felt that standard orchard trees were ideal as a wood pasture or wood meadow system for anyone considering planting new trees.

Most of the fields we walked through are becoming more flower rich as a result of grazing pressure being reduced or stopped altogether and the potential for natural regeneration is evident across much of the farm. As the tree canopy closes the areas that will remain flower rich will be in the glades and rides. We discussed how there will be opportunities to plan tree thinning to maximise this benefit. Also the problems of bracken encroachment noting that livestock are very useful to trample bracken which can dominate young trees and hedgerows very easily.  Planning tree and hedge protection during the design phase of wood pasture and wood meadow is essential.

We discussed how natural regeneration can be a good way to restore meadows and pastures especially where there is seed in the seed bank and nearby fields.  Having a good baseline survey can help to decide where this method will work best – Contact your Meadows Adviser for a visit  and for advice on planning a combination of trees and flower rich pasture or meadow can provide a valuable mosaic of habitats on your land.

The huge benefits of low density trees in mosaics with flower rich grassland are well known and described to us at previous events . Please see our NEWS pages on wood pasture as wood meadows  and living barns providing shelter, shade and resilience to climate change.  To hear about the huge potential that UK grasslands have as a carbon store and how best to leverage this opportunity. see Penny Anderson’s seminar for the Meadow Makers Project based on her 2021 report Carbon and Ecosystems: Restoration and Creation to Capture Carbon  where she discusses how C content in soils varies across different habitats and the importance of sympathetic grazing management system and species diversity.

Other sources of funding for meadow restoration include

Farming in Protected Landscapes in AONBs – ask Herefordshire Meadows Advisers for more information.

CS options for species rich grassland, wood pasture and other new options coming soon in SFI and CS+ for agroforestry and restoration of species rich grassland available on all suitable sites.

Until there are ELM or CS options available for all suitable grassland to be restored to species rich grassland including capital costs and annual payment we continue to look for other sources of funding to enable our members to continue this important restoration work.

Contact your adviser for more information – we are always looking for partners and funding sources to keep up with the wonderful sites that you are all putting forward. Coming in 2024 are opportunities in North Herefordshire and other projects in the pipeline