Neptune Wood meadow: closed August / September 2022

We hope you’ve been able to enjoy the Neptune Wood wildflower meadow over the last few weeks. The meadow provides a great habitat for local wildlife and is a much loved dog walking area. It is also used by Earth Trust Farm for grazing and hay –  essential activities to managing wildflower meadows.

We now need to allow the field to be grazed safely by our sheep and so the permissive footpath that runs between Sylva Foundation and Little Wittenham will be temporarily closed for about six weeks from Monday 8th August whilst we have livestock on the site.

We aim to open the site again ready for the Little Wittenham village fun run to use on the 18th September. Please keep an eye on our social media channels for updates.

“We 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 an alternative walk, the footpaths around Neptune Wood and up to the Broad Arboretum are still open – the latter being a favourite of mine!”  Tim Read, Senior Ranger


Managing the meadow for biodiversity

Those who have visited in spring will have seen the 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 grazing / hay cut

The site is used for grazing in late summer and to feed livestock hay 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 faeces has decomposed, so by closing the meadow well in advance of the hay cut or grazing means we reduce this risk to our livestock and the farmers whose livelihoods rely on them.

Thank you for your understanding, and helping us to restore nature and biodiversity at this special place.

Why not explore a little further

If you are looking for something new to see in the area check out our  River of Life II project on the Thames Path between Clifton Hampden and Days Lock.  We’ve created a series of backwaters and ponds to develop wetland habitat and it’s a great walk to see kingfishers, herons, snipe, plovers and possibly even a curlew.

Elsewhere at Earth Trust...

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