National Meadows Day walk on 6th July

On National Meadows Day on 6th July, the rain passed SW Herefordshire just in time for us to have a great view from Urishay across the Golden Valley on our visit to Tom and Catherine Oliver at Urishay Court. Thanks to them for hosting us and to neighbouring farmer, David Morgan, who joined us to talk about the challenges of managing a very large proportion of the farm as hay meadow with some aftermath grazing.

Tom’s aim to increase biodiversity, change the landscape and maintain the historic interest of the farm through management changes alone has been underway since 2017. Hedges have become tall and wide, providing shelter for a range of insects. We saw small skipper, marbled white and burnet moth (pictured) on the knapweed and bird’s foot trefoil.

Anthill banks with quaking grass and wet flushes with sneezewort are also gradually becoming more flower rich, while orchids are appearing in many fields in small numbers.

Uncut strips are left across some hay fields so that blue butterflies and other insects have refuges after the hay cut where Tom also observes how the hedgerow bramble provides a good alternative nectar source at hay making time.

Any uncut strips need to be grazed with the aftermath so that they maintain their species richness and strips are rotated around the field each year where there is botanical and invertebrate interest.  On other farms wide flowery strips are left around the edge of fields.

It’s never too late to monitor your own grassland to assess the effects of any interventions, seasonal extremes of weather and changes in management. You can find our rapid monitoring method and recording sheet.

And if you are keen to get your flower rich grassland on the Priority Habit Inventory (PHI) for the best rates in the new SFI and CS schemes  …………. you can find instructions about that here.

If you aren’t patient enough to wait for natural seeding to occur or your field does not seem to have many wildflowers in the seedbank then you might decide to intervene with seed or green hay.  You can read about this method in our guidance notes for the 1st year of restoration. 

And if you’d like tailored advice for your grassland please get in touch for an advisory visit.

Plantlife’s Meadow Hub also has some excellent resources on ID and management.

Many thanks to our hosts, and all who attended and contributed.

Happy National Meadows Day from the Herefordshire Meadows team.