|Cornflowers are out! July 2015|
As meadow is in our fields name we think there must have always been a meadow at Ellers, but it must of been a few decades since a meadow has been seen here. We have an old stone drain running the whole length of the land that channels a spring through Ellers and putting my curators hat on I am convinced that at some point we had a traditional water meadow. The stone culvert is lined with 1 metre long by 50cm wide cut limestone and at the time of its construction it must have taken some man power to get all the stones in place. There is also some redundant metal work left over adjacent to the river that indicated that there must have been some sort of sluice gate in place. The aim of a water meadow was not to flood the land, but to keep a trickle of water running through the meadow to keep the grass roots warm and protected them from frost. This resulted in good spring growth and an early meadow crop (http://www.farm-direct.co.uk/farming/history/watermeadow/).
Since the Second World War agriculture has changed dramatically through the need to produce more food. Many hay meadows were ploughed for crops and others have changed to now produce silage, which in turn for examples enable farmers to produce higher milk yields and means there is enough fodder to overwinter livestock indoors. According to a recent report from the charity Plantlife over 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s, which equates to 7.5 million acres (3 million hectares). In addition, species-rich grassland now only covers a mere 1% of the UK’s land area (http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150702-why-meadows-are-worth-saving).
So considering the history of Ellers and the fact that we strongly believe that meadows play a key role in the UK ecosystems it was one of our main aims to get a meadow back at Ellers. First thing we did back in the winter was to get some soil samples completed to see if the PH levels were suitable for meadow species and ideally you need a soil PH of between 5 and 6.5 (http://bumblebeeconservation.org/images/uploads/Bumblebee_seed_mix_for_neutral_soils.pdf ) . We were please to find out that our soil averaged out at PH of around 6.5 and also the levels of Phosphorus (P) Potassium (K), Magnesium (Mg) were on the low level.
|Fern trying to help chain harrow! April 2015|
After chain harrowing we could start seeding and we used a hand seed spreader, which made light work seeding an area just over 1 acre. We have gone for a mix of traditional meadow grass seed and a wild flower mix from Boston Seed and Germinal Seeds. We have also used a damp ground seed mix for the pond edge. The ideal time to sow seeds is either in the spring or the autumn and we just got there in time!
It took a few weeks before we started to see the seeds germinating, but the meadow is now starting to take shape! Not sure if we are going to get many flowers this year, but I think next year we will really see a difference and we will be able to say we have a 1 acres species rich meadow back in our Parish!