FoBM Christmas Newsletter
This year has seen the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) take over Bartonsham Meadows as their newest and largest nature reserve. Work has begun to regenerate and restore the Meadows to biodiverse floodplain habitat – the wild heart of Hereford.
In this newsletter
- Hedgerow restoration – and new dates
- HWT end of year update
- HWT draft management plan – summarised here and in detail on our website
- Increase in birds recorded at the site
- Art for Bartonsham – online and in HWT shops
- Dates for your diaries – all welcome to be a part of this
Words: Anna Gundrey
We’ve had four super productive days of hedge planting on the Meadow in November and early December. There was a really good turn out for every session – and it was great to see a mix of familiar and new faces on each occasion. So far we’ve planted over one and a half thousand hedging trees and restored two and a half hedgerows measuring three quarters of a kilometre. This has way outstripped our expectations – we were hoping to restore a single hedgerow of about 250m! The hedgerow plants are a diverse mix of species to provide structural variety and species richness. They include hawthorn, blackthorn, wild cherry, bird cherry, dog rose, elder, spindle, dogwood, crab apple, hazel, field maple. We have also planted several oaks within the hedgerows which will be left to grow into mature trees, and we have ten disease-resistant elm trees on order to plant in the new year. A big thank you to everyone who came out in the mud and rain to plant, and to all those who donated trees. Also a massive thanks to the HWT volunteer team who lead the sessions, and this project couldn’t have been done without the HWT work party who valiantly cleared the hedge lines in advance of the planting days. They had the horrible job of removing the bramble that had taken over, and the barbed-wire fence that was embedded within.
The trees, canes and spiral guards were funded by the Greening the City Community Grants Scheme. We also received 420 free trees from the Woodland Trust ‘Free Trees for Schools and Communities’ scheme, which is still open if anyone has a community space to enhance for wildlife.
It has been so exciting to start doing things on the ground and working together as a community, and the great news is that there’s still more to do!
***Don’t miss our Christmas special ‘Finish off the planting’ session on Saturday 30th December***. We’ve got about 300 hedgerow trees still to plant to complete the third hedgerow. Come along for some post-christmas fresh air and mince pies. Children are welcome with their grown-ups to plant the section by the Green Street entrance not fenced by barbed wire.
Meet at Green Street entrance at 10am with spade, gloves and optional Christmas snacks!
A massive thank you to all who have taken part so far and we hope to see some of you again at our final session of the year.
Bartonsham Meadows End of Year Update
Words: David Hutton, Bartonsham Meadows Reserves Manager, Hereford Wildlife Trust
1 December 2023
With the end of the year approaching it’s a good time to take stock of plans and progress at Bartonsham Meadows Nature Reserve…
There has been some exciting activity at the Reserve this year, including several well attended hedge planting sessions with local volunteers as well as the ongoing ‘Balsam Bashes’ during the summer and recording of the birds using the Reserve.
In the meantime the Trust is working hard to raise funds to continue the management of the site into the future. This funding is unlikely to be available until the new year at which time we hope this will provide more staff ‘on the ground’ to work with volunteers and contractors to improve the wildlife habitats, access and interpretation material on the Reserve.
Potential funding streams include;
- The National Heritage Lottery Fund – Application submitted in November and decision on January/February (for staff, interpretation, restoration and monitoring)
- Welsh Water – match funding for the above Lottery application
- Capital Countryside Stewardship – Application for reserve access, livestock fencing and hedge management
- Biodiversity Net Gain – this is a potentially very useful form of funding which will be shared with the Church Commissioners as per the terms of our lease.
After signing the lease with the Church Commissioners in May 2023, work began on reviewing the management plan and over the following few months a management plan was agreed by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, the steering group of Friends of Bartonsham Meadows, and has been shared and discussed with the Church Commissioners. The plan includes several key management objectives, the following is a brief summary, for more detail and locations, see the Draft Management Plan.
Floodplain Meadow Restoration
One of the primary objectives is the restoration of around 18ha (just over half the area of the nature reserve) of Floodplain Meadow with the eventual aim of restoring traditional hay cutting and grazing.
Experts from the Floodplain Meadows Partnership visited Bartonsham in October to advise on future management. They recommended that we remove the standing vegetation once or twice a year for two or three years between May and July. This process will reduce the dominance of the more vigorous plants like docks and thistles and will reduce soil fertility, particularly phosphates to a level where we can start to introduce the wild flowers and grasses which would once have grown at Bartonsham Meadows.
The first step in this process was to remove around three years growth of arable weeds from 18ha of the Reserve and to transport this off site to an Anaerobic Digester or composting facility. The cut material was first stored in large plastic bags which turned the material into a form of silage. This process retains much of the stored energy in the cut material and makes it more useable and valuable energy source for the AD facility, thus reducing the cost of removing it. In future we hope that the material can be taken directly to the AD facility without the need to turn it into silage. In the longer term material will be removed as hay with cattle or sheep grazing the re-growth in late summer.
Managed Natural Regeneration
Another main objective of the Reserve management plan is the establishment of around 17ha (just under half the area of the reserve) Managed Natural Regeneration.
This is more or less all about letting nature do its own thing!
As anyone who has walked the meadows during the summer will have noticed, the mixture of docks, thistles and nettles which regenerated naturally in the disturbed soils left by the farming operations after the floods of 2019, provided a habitat for an amazing variety of birds and insects as well as a surprising number of other plants. The structure of the habitat formed by the tall, robust plants like docks, hogweed, teasel and tansy, provides important habitat diversity for the reserve as a whole and while this area may look a little untidy to some eyes at the moment, it will change over time and provide an interesting contrast to the more intensively managed areas of floodplain meadow. We aim to have a few grazing animals on this area in order to create a ‘mosaic’ of grass and scrub which will develop over time to create a rich habitat for a great variety of plants and animals.
There has been some concern about seeds from thistles causing problems in the areas of meadow restoration. This is something we will need to keep an eye on but because most of the meadows now have an established grass sward, giving fewer opportunities for seeds to establish themselves, we hope this will become less of a problem, especially as the dominance of thistle in the natural regeneration areas reduces over time.
Monitoring and Recording
We hope to involve groups of local volunteers and potentially students from nearby Colleges and Universities in recording and monitoring the development of the habitats on the reserve as time goes on. We’ll share the results on the website and via newsletters to people who have expressed an interest.
Other important aspects of managing the Reserve include;
- hedge management – newly planted hedge and existing hedges
- pond restoration – of the two ‘ghost ponds’ shown on historic maps and in some aerial photos.
- interpretation – to explain about the wildlife and management of the reserve
Herefordshire Wildlife Trust Bartonsham Meadows Draft Management Plant
FOBM summary of HWT draft plan
Words: Bill Laws
The main aim of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s management plan, which we reproduce on our website, is:
to manage the site as a Nature Reserve in order to enhance and maintain biodiversity, and to maintain public access for quiet enjoyment of the natural environment.
In addition Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) plan to restore the floodplain grassland; manage the scrub, woodland habitats (including veteran trees), hedgerows and in-field trees; create a natural regeneration area and restore the two former ponds; control non-native, invasive species like Himalayan balsam; use low-level grazing by cattle, sheep or ponies to allow natural succession on part of the Meadows and allow natural regeneration to take place on the remainder of the land. HWT wish to support community involvement, celebrate the Meadow’s wildlife and cultural history; and to maintain safe public access, balancing those needs against those of wildlife and biodiversity. HWT is also considering creating additional features such as wetland ‘scrapes’ (to encourage more wildlife and assist flood water retention) and planting fruit trees.
HWT recognise a number of challenges including the regular seasonal flooding; the lack of on-site storage; vandalism; disturbance from dogs; the Public Rights of Way; and the presence of a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the Row Ditch.
However, managing the Meadows as a nature reserve will benefit both the neighbouring community – this is the city’s largest urban reserve – and, more importantly given the state of climate change, ‘improve water infiltration, store carbon and flood waters, support pollinating insects, increase biodiversity and improve water quality’.
The full draft plan is available on the FOBM website here.
Increase in Meadow birds
Words: Bill Laws
November’s bird count was a record with 32 species seen. There were the usual long-tailed tits, mistle and song thrushes, pied wagtails, wren, goldfinch, robins, mallard and herons.
While we saw redwings, we missed that other winter visitor, the fieldfare, usually seen and heard (chuk-ah-chuk) about now. But we did catch a lesser redpoll: it’s all a matter of luck on the day.
Looking back (2022:22; 2021:18; 2020:22) the number of species seems to be increasing. We guess this is due to the bottom field (Lower Great Meadow) and riverside fields (Great Meadow and Meadow Piece) being left to rewild. This provides food and shelter for birds we’ve not seen for a long time such as reed buntings and the stonechat which lives up to its name: it sounds like two stones knocking together. Watch out for both on the field fringes.
Many thanks to Bill Laws and Dick Jones for their monthly bird counts.
Get your stockings filled
- Stunning fresh vibrant prints and cards available in HWT shops and online, designed by Jess Bugler and with profits ringfenced for Bartonsham Meadows regeneration
- Any other purchases from HWT will also support the Bartonsham Meadows restoration of course! And the Hereford shop on Church St will welcome any donations you might have.
- Thanks to all who have shared heart-warming images and photography with us – we’re figuring out ways to showcase this and get more local artists involved – please keep in touch / get in touch
- And welcoming Jess Bugler to the steering committee as our arts lead to help us on this
Dates for your diary
- Christmas special ‘Finish off the planting’ session 30 December. Meet 10am Green Street entrance
- Wassail – 12th night – 6 January 2024
- Committee meeting – 15 January 2024 7.30pm Volly – no speaker per se but all welcome to join the business meeting, have a pint, and chat regeneration and restoration
- Cathedral talk – Anna and Ruth – 11 March 2024
- HWT have a sign-up form on their website to volunteer on Bartonsham Meadows. Please sign up here!
- HWT have set up a WhatsApp group for volunteers. Please email us with your mobile number if you’d like to join! firstname.lastname@example.org
THANK YOU FOR YOUR INVALUABLE SUPPORT
Back in October, Will took this incredible dawn image of the Meadows – it seems fitting to close the year with it as we reflect on the HUGE progress made in securing the future of Bartonsham’s freshly-designated Nature Reserve. We hope your holidays are equally Merry and Bright!
Anna, Bill, Charlie, Dick, Gareth, Jen-May, Jeremy, Jess, Mo, Rhian, Ruth & Will