A warm welcome back to our Friends. Thanks so much for supporting the project.
Quick overview of the month: We walked the site with the officers of the Church Commissioners and their agents and have received independent advice on reseeding from a number of experts. We laid reptile mats along the Row Ditch and have been checking them this month. Alas no snakes - but a wee mouse and lots of snails. We conducted a hedgerow survey to identify defunct hedgerow, where the hedges need gapping up, and to identify species. Suffice to say for now that many are in a poor state. Our seven-page spread in the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s next edition of The Flycatcher is at the printers and will be with HWT members in mid-October. See a preview below. The spider Poppy Wilkins identified in our Bioblitz made it to prime position in the CLAN newsletter. A huge huge thanks to Healing Herbs’ generous donation - we now know our basic running costs are covered for the year to come. If you can chip in to support our activities we now have an instant donate button on the website here
LAND MANAGEMENT UPDATE
Autumn is upon us and the meadows have been fallow for a year. The topping of weeds in August has left a seedbed to be relished by the birds this winter but leaves a seedbed of docks estimated to last 60 years. The docks are already forming seed heads again – which we have of course communicated to the Church Commissioners and asked them to top and remove.
Flooding of the meadows is inevitable as winter approaches. Current ground cover will provide some resistance to the removal of topsoil, but not on areas where cover is poor, such as the field closest to the farmhouse.
The Church Commissioners have received recommendations from county and national meadow restoration groups to reseed all of the fields without the use of spray this autumn. This needs to be done as a matter of urgency both to provide cover where the land is bare and to allow the seed to become established enough not to be washed away in the floods. After a year of lying fallow weed mitigation is problematic. However, if an annual nurse crop were sown this would inhibit the return of dock and thistle – provided that if say ryegrass were used it could be cut and carted to avoid establishment on the land for decades. A more native meadow mix could then be added to the sward.
The Church Commissioners have not yet indicated whether they will seek to reseed the site this Autumn. We have strongly urged them to do so. We have shared this text with them prior to sending out the newsletter and asked for a statement on their intention for the site that we can share publicly.
REPTILE SURVEY During September we have been conducting a reptile survey along the permissive path at the back of Park Street. This is the ideal time of year to do it – reptiles are less active in Autumn and easier to spot, but have not yet gone into hibernation. We were hoping to find slow worms or perhaps common lizards but sadly we have not seen a single reptile – only a lone mouse and lots of snails. This may be because historically the field was grazed right up to the gardens, which would not have left many places for reptiles to shelter, or it may be that slow worms have been predated by the healthy cat population in the neighbourhood. Because of the city centre location, the meadows are isolated from other habitats that might support reptiles, so once lost it is difficult for a population of reptiles to recolonize. Next spring we plan to carry out a similar survey along the edge of the river, where we are hoping to discover grass snakes, a species that is often associated with aquatic habitat. If we do find reptiles along the river, we could investigate how green corridors allow the population to disperse to other areas of the meadows. Which leads nicely onto the survey that we have carried out this month…. HEDGEROW SURVEY FoBM have just carried out an audit of the hedgerow resource on the meadows. As many may have noticed, new double fences were installed along defunct hedgelines a few years ago as if in preparation for new hedge planting. But this never happened. We have walked the boundaries of the fields and assessed the condition of each of the hedgerows, and will report back to the CC with the aim of encouraging them to fulfil the commitments of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.
At first glance a slow worm looks like a snake, but they are actually legless lizards. They have a sleek silvery body and a tail that they can shed to escape an attacker. They are found in a range of habitats from grassland and woodland edges to gardens, and feed on invertebrates such as slugs and spiders. Like all reptiles in Britain, they receive protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 meaning that it is an offence to kill, injure or sell them. Like much of the UK’s wildlife, they are threatened by habitat loss.
THIS MONTH, LOOK OUT FOR... Our seven-page spread in Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s The Flycatcher due out to members in mid-October. The Floodplain Meadows Partnership’s online conference running 13th, 14th and 15th October. Check out the sessions and sign-up here. Our friends at Hidden Herefordshire have been busy developing an exciting programme of wildlife courses for the autumn/winter months. Check the new Herefordshire Biological Records Centre website for details here. Courses are free and cover a range of fascinating topics such as ‘Getting to grips with woodlice’ and ‘Learn to love earthworms’. They are also encouraging everyone to take part in a Garden Wildlife survey – survey sheets and spotters guides are available on the HBRC website. Check out the flyers below for more information. We’ll do a survey of reptiles along the riverbank in the Springtime - better luck there we hope!