Words From The Fields 2018 / 20202nd of December, 2020
"Words From The Fields"
The Hay Meadow Restoration Project
Wildflowers and restoration are at the heart of then land here. I would love to share with you the inspiration from then fields here in The Trough of Bowland.
In 2018 I decided to re wild part of the farmland and set aside a field for the hay meadow to bring it back to how I remember it as a child.
It’s never a quick process and requires a great deal of waiting to see what unfolds. Since our meadow rich species are under threat loosing up to 97% of our wildflowers since the second world war. It felt a natural calling for me to do my part for nature. In this blog you will find the process and be able see the progress. So here we go!
Phase One :
October 2018 The seeds taken from another hay meadow were given to me to propagation, this is a process of breeding a specimen of a plant by natural processes. In this case Globe Flower and Melancholy Thistle were chosen from an established site near Slaidburn . These little seeds took 18 months to fully germinate and grow into seedlings that grew strong enough to be planted in the meadow. The main thing to make the difference was to keep the sheep grazing until March then allow the grass to grow and to soil test and do a species score.
Phase Two: September 2019 The Glode Flower and Melancholy Thistle came into the polytunnel to bring them on a little stronger. The species score results came back and we have Common bent Grass, Creeping bent grass, Marsh Fox tail, Meadow Fox tail, Sweet vernal grass, False oat grass, Crested dogs tail, Red fescue, Floeating soft grass,Yorkshire fog, Sharp flowered rush, Soft rush, Perennial rye grass,Annual meadow grass, Changing forget me not, Ribwort plantain, Selfheal, Meadow buttercup, creeping buttercup, Common sorrel, Sheeps sorrel, Rough meadow grass, Yarrow, Daisy, Cuckoo flower, Common mouse ear, Creeping thistle, Marsh thistle, Pig nut, White clover.
Phase Three ; 5th August 2019 The field was fenced off from sheep then the chain harrowing began, this is a process that scratches the dead grass up from the field before we sow the seeds. We then set about sowing the seeds by hand which were a mixture of heritage seeds Redclover, Meadow cranes bill,Sneezewort,Rue,Vetch,Soapwort,Goats Rue,Water Avens,Ragged Robin,Monkey Flower, Water betony.
Phase Four: 17th Sept 2019 Today we were planting the Globe flower and Melancholy thistle into the meadow, this was very exciting the little plants were planted and in the ground in two test sites. One site on a banking and one in a slightly boggy area. They were both fenced off to protect from bunnies. They were protected with sheep’s wool to prevent the slugs.
Phase Five: 2nd October 2019
Carol from the AONB sends some of her collected seeds to Kew Gardens in London, the long journey for her to go and collect the Globe Flower and Melancholy thistle once they are big enough. So, Carol comes home with 250 young plants, we set about planting them all in another farm Bell Sykes Farm in Slaidburn called coronation meadows, this is an established site where our meadow seed came from.
Phase Six 9th November 2019
So, we were joined by Lancaster university Students for a day of mindfulness, this also includes some hay meadow practical learning. A real mix of a day and our students helped to remove some thistles from the hay meadow. They ended the day with some yoga and a little vegan supper. They all left looking refreshed and glowing as it was a very cold day.
Phase Seven: 21st December 2019 Winter Solstice...the gathering of friends, this is always a time for celebration here at the farm where we share food, create music, and share our stories. We had a great group of people a young harpist, and we were joined with drums and song from a local musician. One of the things we did together was to sow the final seed Yellow Rattle with all our intentions for the coming year. It was a beautiful evening for everyone and it’s so exciting to wait to see what happens.
Phase Eight: Early March saw the pandemic lockdown. I have never felt the land so peaceful and the skies so very clear. This was to be the toughest year on so many levels yet nature rested and the world took a breath !!
26th April 2020 Spring, now here is the fun part, the swards of grass are growing and up come the first flowers, daisy, and cuckoo flower. The first opening of the globe flower appeared, slowly followed by bluebells on the 5th May. The most exciting thing to report is the Yellow Rattle flowering on the 10th May, so much of it as well which is great for the meadow as it suppresses the rye grass and helps to make space for the wild flowers to grow.
Phase NIne: 20th August 2020 We cut the meadow for hay, this was the one and only cut. We tossed the grass and then left the seed to settle, then we tossed it again before baling it into lovely meadow hay. This was our last spell of really hot weather.
Phase Ten: Sept 11th 2020 It was time to do a short spell of grazing with my ten little wooly lawn mowers, the Hebridean sheep are excellent at mowing the grass. They thin out the grass so we can then spread some more green hay seed mix which is collected as brush harvest from Bell Sykes Farm Slaidburn.
Plug Plants from the AONB were planted in to the test site in the allotment, Hawkbit and Green Burnet.
Dyers Green weed ( Genista Tinctoria) was planted in the Globe Flower test site, this is a highly endangered plant with only 20% of the declining species in the nursery.
Seeds were also sown, Great Burnet, Meadow Cranesbill,Globe Flower,Meadow Vetchling and Knapweed. Some seeds were shared with the eco gang in Warton
Autumn Equinox Sept 28th & 6th Oct 2020 The ground was harrowed and seeds of Yellow Rattle and the remaining brush harvest were sown in the meadow.
Winter Solstice 21st December 2020 This is always my favorite time of year, when the land inhales for winter. The final seeds of Yellow rattle were sown. Sowing the seeds of intention for the the following year.