Grassland Restoration at Riverside Meadows, Crowmarsh Gifford
Riverside Meadows, managed by Earth Trust on behalf of South Oxfordshire District Council, will become a beautiful wildlife haven providing food and habitat for insects, birds and mammals. Lowland floodplain meadows are a rare habitat in Oxfordshire and the largest field will be restored to a wildflower rich meadow as it would have been in the past.
Back in 2009 a trial patch was sown with wildflower seed and proved very successful. Thanks to funding from Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) we are able to extend the restoration to the whole field. Natural England and English Heritage have been consulted to ensure they are happy that the work will benefit wildlife and won’t damage any sensitive archaeology.
In May 2012 the field, excluding the trial patch and a section bordering the river, was sprayed with selective herbicide to kill an abundance of creeping buttercup, which would otherwise swamp any wildflower seeds.
The field is now ready for cultivation and work began on the 4th October. The field will be disked in two directions to create bare ground allowing seeds a chance to establish. This process will heavily disturb the soil; it might look as if the field has been ploughed. The field will be harrowed to smooth the surface and the seed will be sown and rolled into the soil. Heavy machinery and tractors will be on site throughout the process; walkers should take note of signs while crossing the field and dogs should be kept on leads.
Twenty one different wildflower species have been specifically chosen to suit the soil. The grass should return quickly and next summer yellow rattle and ox eye daisy should be abundant with other wildflowers, including knapweed, cowslip and musk mallow, appearing the following year.
The meadow will be maintained by topping and cattle grazing early each year to keep the grasses low, giving the wildflowers a chance to establish. In spring the cattle will be moved, allowing the grass and flowers to grow for hay. Following hay cutting in the summer, cattle will return to the field helping to trample in the seed ready to germinate again next year.
In addition to the grassland restoration work at Riverside Meadows, Earth Trust has created new wildflower meadows at the Wittenham Clumps and on the Earth Trust Farm – a total size equivalent to 25 Wembley pitches!
Anyone with questions or concerns should contact Lorretta Waters, Neighbourhood Wildlife Warden, on 07982 218493 or email firstname.lastname@example.org