Fight­ing prickly bat­tles to make way for sum­mer

Cathie Hasler leads the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust team at Meadow Farm as they get ready for sum­mer

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - COMMUNITY -

IN the two years since the Wildlife Trust bought th­ese re­mark­able me­dieval mead­ows on the borders of Buck­ing­hamshire and Ox­ford­shire we’ve learnt so much about the wildlife that lives here.

I’m lucky to have an of­fice in the farm­house at Meadow Farm and be part of the team look­ing af­ter the wider Up­per Ray Mead­ows. This in­cludes sev­eral smaller na­ture re­serves such as Gal­lows Bridge Farm and Leaches Farm, pre­cious rem­nants of me­dieval field sys­tems, which the Trust bought with the help of our mem­bers and grants, be­cause they are very spe­cial places for wildlife.

Meadow Farm com­prises seven wild­flower mead­ows each with ex­tra­or­di­nary bound­aries of un­man­aged (un­til last win­ter) hedgerows, and the River Ray, which rises near Quain­ton and flows to the River Cher­well. Th­ese are flood­plain mead­ows – The Wildlife Trust now owns 10% of the en­tire acreage of th­ese tra­di­tional flood­plain mead­ows in Eng­land, and we’re look­ing af­ter them for ev­ery­one to en­joy, as well as wildlife to thrive.

Meadow Farm is open for booked groups and spe­cial events, such as the Dawn Cho­rus Walk on Satur­day April 30, to cel­e­brate In­ter­na­tional Dawn Cho­rus Day, on May Day.

This will be a per­fect op­por­tu­nity to en­joy Meadow Farm with but­ter­cups em­pha­sis­ing the ridge and fur­row pat­tern on the fields, and to en­joy hear­ing birds in­clud­ing chif­fchaff, yel­lowham­mer, black­cap and the bub­bling call of the curlew.

Then through­out the late spring and early sum­mer there will be a se­ries of Wild­flower Meadow Walks, start­ing on Satur­day 14 May, with reg­u­lar events from 22 May to 10 July so vis­i­tors can en­joy the wild flow­ers at their peak. There’s more in­for­ma­tion about th­ese and other events at Meadow Farm on www.bbowt.org.uk/ whats-on

The Up­per Ray Mead­ows is a Coronation Meadow, so wildlife-rich that the seed har­vested from the fields can be used to re­store wild­flower mead­ows nearby.

The Coronation Mead­ows project was set up by Prince Charles in the Queen’s Golden Ju­bilee year with The Wildlife Trusts, Plantlife and the Rare Breeds Sur­vival Trust, specif­i­cally to re­store and recre­ate wild­flower mead­ows across the UK. Seed from Meadow Farm has al­ready been used for meadow restora­tion near Ayles­bury.

The Up­per Ray Mead­ows boast a net­work of more than 12 miles of hedgerows, which pro­vide food, shel­ter and nest­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for a range of species. We’re re­ju­ve­nat­ing sec­tions of hedgerow and this year cop­piced and laid an in­cred­i­ble 570m!

All this work is only pos­si­ble thanks to our fan­tas­tic team of vol­un­teers who have bat­tled spikey black­thorn and prickly hawthorn in all weath­ers. Re­in­force­ments have come in the shape of the Vale Coun­try­side Vol­un­teers and Bicester Green Gym who have sup­ported us through­out.

New projects are be­ing pre­pared across the Up­per Ray Mead­ows. Th­ese in­clude re-nat­u­ral­is­ing more than 500m of river to en­hance wildlife; ex­pand­ing our net­work of wet fea­tures and in­stalling preda­tor fenc­ing to help pro­tect breed­ing birds; and start­ing work on a new foot­path to im­prove pub­lic ac­cess to Gal­lows Bridge Farm.

Fund­ing for th­ese projects and more has come from the Her­itage Lottery Fund, as well as Land­fill Com­mu­ni­ties Fund ad­min­is­tered by WREN, and grants from Biffa Award, the Ernest Cook Trust and the Wild­flower So­ci­ety.

School­child­ren are en­joy­ing the spe­cial out­door class­room as well as the pond-dip­ping, bug hunt­ing and run­ning through the mead­ows with sweep nets to see what they can catch, and then re­lease.

Come out to Meadow Farm and find out more about th­ese amaz­ing mead­ows.

PHOTO: COLIN WIL­LIAMS

Main pic­ture: Meadow Farm but­ter­cups in ridge and fur­row

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