The work being undertaken in the Talbot Field small nature reserve was interrupted in March by the coronavirus ‘lock-down’. All work ceased suddenly leaving piles of cuttings all around the site and with wildflower plugs provided by Hassocks Parish Council waiting to be planted. The plugs were nurtured during this period but were fast becoming root-bound so at the earliest opportunity when Government restrictions were slowly being eased in June, two people returned to site to plant them.
Small areas of grass were cleared to allow wildflower plugs to be planted.
These were bedded in carefully to maximise their chances to flourish.
Some bigger plants were included to further enrich the meadow.
This planting in the heat of the summer was completed but to ensure their survival required daily watering. This was achieved by transporting cans full of water to site and for an hour or so every day, religiously watering each plant.
Many 5 gallon drums of water were transported to site daily.
They were individually carried to the planted areas….
….emptied into watering cans….
….to provide a nourishing drink to each plant….
…so that they were able to withstand the hot weather.
It also became a battle of wills with the indigenous rabbit population and moles who saw the new planting as a meal ticket and something to aim at with the boring of new tunnels respectively. Despite this adversity we remedied all damage as well as possible and most of the plants are now flourishing whilst still being watered daily. Next year will tell us how successful this has been with our effort to enrich the area with wildflower planting.
This Marbled White butterfly feeding on existing Knapweed will hopefully be given a greater wildflower choice in subsequent years as a result of this effort.
This return to site also allowed us to establish how much work remained to be completed to enable the August meadow cut to be undertaken by contractors. A large stack and 30 piles of cuttings were strewn all around the meadow area and were now complicated by being interwoven with the surrounding vegetation growth. These had to removed to allow cutting access, so initially two people returned in July to move the stack to the rear of the site out of the way because with the surrounding dry hay conditions in the meadow, burning it would have been risky.
The large area of surrounding dry meadow grass made any bonfires to burn the cuttings too risky to contemplate.
Full project days were then resumed as permitted by Government restrictions with all attending social distancing, wearing gloves at all times, arriving separately and with all tools disinfected after each session. The volunteers who gathered to undertake this work followed these guidelines meticulously giving us the confidence to proceed with our conservation programme which by now was very much in delay.
Work was resumed after ‘lock-down’ with everyone observing all social distancing and other safety precautions.
Volunteers quickly adapted to the new ‘safety working’ regime.
Wheelbarrows were filled by one person while the other stood back and then wheeled away when full while the filler rested.
Cuttings being removed from growing vegetation.
They tacked the difficult task of extracting the cutting piles from the surrounding vigorously growing vegetation skilfully and within a few weeks all piles had been transported to the main stack at the rear of the site.
Work continued until no obstacle to the eventual task of cutting the meadow remained.
All cuttings were heaped along the rear boundary for autumn/winter burning.
The daily watering of the wildflower plants continues to maximise their chances of survival but our volunteer effort here has temporarily ceased to enable us to catch up with an urgent work requirement at other sites caused by the continuing COVID-19 restrictions.
Watering continues however, to maximise the wildflower planting survival prospects.