Neptune Wood meadow: closed 17th May – August 2021

As people have been flocking to the barbers, it’s time for the wildflower meadow at Neptune Wood to have its annual hay cut, too. The meadow will be closed to visitors from Monday 17th May, and will reopen after the cut. This usually happens between the end of July and early August, but this is weather dependent (please keep an eye on here and on our social media channels for updates).

This article contains information on how we manage the wildflower meadow at Neptune Wood, and why we close it so far in advance of the hay cut.

“I know this is a regular walk for lots of people, so thank you for your understanding and patience while the meadow is closed. If you’re looking for a new walk to try, the footpaths around Neptune Wood and up to the Arboretum are still open – the latter being a favourite of mine!”  Tim Read, Senior Ranger

Managing the meadow for biodiversity:

Those who have recently visited will have seen the spring carpet of yellow cowslips – a species once common in hay meadows, but which in some places has declined as a result of habitat loss and changes in land management techniques. At Earth Trust we manage this meadow using a mix of more traditional methods, which results in more diverse wildflower populations:

One year in three we cut the meadow for hay in mid-summer, after the majority of wildflowers have sown their seeds, and then graze it later in the year to keep the late summer grasses down. This keeps the grass (or “sward”) short and means that spring flowers like the cowslips can get plenty of light early in the year. Cutting and removing of the hay also keeps nutrient levels in the soil low, which suits wildflowers and helps suppress more competitive grasses, nettles and thistles. For the other two years in the cycle we use livestock to the same effect.

Why we close the meadow ahead of the hay cut:

The hay cut is used to feed livestock over the following winter. It’s therefore important that this fodder isn’t contaminated by dog poo, which can carry Neospora caninum, a parasite that can cause miscarriage in sheep and cattle. It can survive long after dog poo has decomposed, so by closing the meadow further in advance of the hay cut we reduce this risk to our livestock and the farmers whose livelihoods rely on them.

 

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