With a queue of seasonal tasks still remaining after the delay caused by the first coronavirus national lockdown, we quickly moved on to tackle the annual meadow cut required at Pond Lye Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI). An advance contingent of volunteers had attended to cut the knee length grass that was covering the car park area and begin the annual meadow cut. This was undertaken in parallel with work being undertaken at other sites.
This work is necessary to maintain the rich quality of the meadow which is in evidence throughout the summer. When the blooms come to the end of their flowering season we return to provide the care needed to maintain it.
Summer blooms flourishing in the meadow.
Our first task was to clear the car park of the long grass that had grown unimpeded during the coronavirus lockdown to enable access for volunteer vehicles.
The car park was cleared in readiness.
We are very grateful to our regular volunteer scythe operator, who attended site at 6.00am every morning before beginning work elsewhere. This early start also allowed him to avoid the heat of the late summer days. He started on the cutting of the area of the meadow which was punctuated with anthills and which always proves so difficult to tackle by any other means.
Our skilful scythe operator tackling the difficult areas of the meadow.
He succeeded brilliantly and by the time others began working at the site a few weeks later, had scythed the whole of this section giving us a head start with the cutting of the remaining area.
For the remaining cut we were equally fortunate to obtain the help of one of our long-standing helpers who uses his tractor and cutter to cut the rest of the meadow for us.
Our tractor volunteer then began the task that has previously taken months to complete by other means.
For this he attended several days at the end of August and completed all the areas that were accessible with his tractor.
He methodically mowed the huge meadow to keep it in prime condition for distinctive flora to flourish.
His effort saves us months of attempting to cut the meadow with brush cutters and scythes alone and we are extremely grateful to him for this help.
When completed the meadow looked impressive…
…in all the areas he was able to access.
Once this was done, volunteers with brush cutters moved in to cut the meadow perimeters and areas too uneven for the tractor to cover.
The brush cutter operators were soon tackling the remaining difficult areas.
Armed with their equipment….
….the cutting task was eventually completed.
Then it was time for others to move in with rakes to gather up and dispose of all the meadow cuttings. This final stage can take many weeks with us recruiting as many of our volunteers as possible to complete the task before any meadow regrowth occurs to make the task difficult.
The amount of meadow cuttings to be cleared were considerable….
….and for this many hard-working volunteers began the raking task.
Armed with rakes, hay forks and a lot of enthusiasm….
….they methodically worked in teams….
….and despite the difficulty of the task….
….still found the energy to have fun.
Working together they raked in lines….
….and then gathered the hay into heaps….
….which were then burnt….
….on previous bonfire sites to minimise the damage to the meadow area.
With so much energy being expended, breaks to revitalise the volunteers were important….
….as were pauses to ease aching muscles.
Raking for long periods is very hard work….
….as is the transporting of the cuttings to the allocated bonfire sites.
This task can take months to complete….
….and relies on the support and regular attendance of many people.
We are a volunteer group….
….who are committed to conserving countryside and wildlife….
….but can only achieve this….
….through the dedication of such people….
….who are prepared to turn up….
….week after week to ensure our goals are achieved.
Our gratitude to them for this is considerable.
This work stage can become very protracted as it often coincides with the advent of the autumn rainy season which forces many of the weekly volunteer days to be cancelled when dry weather forecasts suddenly deteriorate. This year proved no exception.
We also had the introduction of the second period of coronavirus lockdown which prevented any working parties assembling to complete it. This has once again put our countryside and wildlife work schedule into delay despite the hard work our volunteers with rakes and cutters had put in to remedy and for which we are very grateful.
Many arrive by car as the meadow is located far into the countryside but many others regularly arrive by bicycle to join in the work effort.
The current situation is that a small amount of work to complete the task is still required now that the lockdown period has expired before we move on to the next conservation activity. This report highlights the effort that has been expended to date so that the meadow can once again flourish next year.
Hopefully next year will provide the same rich tapestry of flora to justify the effort spent on nurturing the meadow condition. With wildflower meadows generally in severe decline, the remaining ones require as much help as possible to survive and to sustain the wildlife populations that flourish in them.