FLANDERS MOSS NNR
Any recent visitor to Flanders Moss might have noticed something of a difference in the car park meadow: it is, in a word, bald. No longer is the picnic area fringed by a thicket of wildflowers – this, the popular summer home of a host of thrumming invertebrates, has disappeared.
However, this is no act of ecological vandalism (promise!), but meadow management. By cutting back in the autumn, we stop grasses taking over and pushing or shading out the wildflowers – so that they come back, and better, the following year.
For me, it was a chance to get to grips with the reciprocating mower – a piece of machinery perfectly suited to cutting through vegetation. Its blades are brought together like scissors, cutting easily through dense stems.
So, whilst Steve gathered a final harvest of wildflower seeds, I set out to mow a meadow…
I walked the area first, back and forth, surprising several field voles, two toads, and one enormous frog. These creatures were variously scooped up or ushered out of harm’s way, before slowly beginning the cutting – round and round, in ever decreasing circles.
I was reminded of my mum’s stories of visiting her uncle’s farm when she was small – she and her siblings pressed into service, armed with saucepans and wooden spoons, scared all the hiding creatures from the middle of the field so they would escape the combine. Carefully does it.
The next day, Steve, Bethia and I set off with rakes (and biscuits) for a day’s work with the volunteers – a lovely bunch, who quickly made Bethia and I feel welcome and, as quickly, set to work.
The day’s primary task was to rake the meadow. This reduces the nutrient input from the cuttings, keeping the soil nutrient-poor – just as wildflowers like it. Raking also helps early wildflowers which might otherwise be suppressed by a mat of cut stems. It’s hard work, and we were reminded as ever of the importance of volunteers: without them, it would have taken us thrice as long (and been much less fun).
Thanks to the efforts of this very rakish bunch, we cleared the area of cuttings, before scattering seeds and using a roller to press them into the ground. There was even time for a spruce-up of the picnic benches, preserving them for another year. A good day’s work!
And, whilst the meadow might not look like much right now, we’re looking forward to next summer, when the space will once more be an explosion of colour, and a haven for pollinators.
It’ll be glorious next year!
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