Recently the ranger team has been busy managing the meadow in Dovedale, part of our Bridestones property. Each year we cut the grass here, then rake off the cuttings. Doing this has a number of conservation benefits. It stops scrub species coming through as any trees or shrubs that have set seed are cut out before they can become established. By removing the cuttings we are also gradually removing nutrients from the meadow. Rank grasses and undesirable species such as nettles, thistles and docks all need plenty of nutrients in the soil to fuel their vigorous growth. They cannot survive in nutrient poor soils and instead wildflowers thrive instead. They are already many wildflower species in the meadow including harebells, black knapweed, tormentil, ragged robin and common spotted orchids to name a few. With continued good management we hope even more species will grow here.
Completing the work is quite a time consuming process. The easy part was getting it cut. Using a power scythe on the flatter areas helped us get the bulk of the grass cut. We were all novices using it and there were a few times where it ended up stuck in a ditch due to our poor control!
Meanwhile the rest of the team used strimmers to cut the more uneven parts of the meadow. We managed to crack on with the job and got the whole area cut in one day.
For the raking and removing of the grass it’s very much a case of more hands make light work. We called on the National Park’s Hobs volunteer group to help us for the first day. It was a very still and slightly muggy day, which unfortunately made it ideal weather for midges and they came out in droves. Despite all the volunteers coating themselves liberally in midge repellant and fashioning interesting anti-midge outfits, working conditions were pretty unpleasant.
Despites the midges the volunteers did a great job of raking a decent proportion of the meadow. We’ve since been back with our own volunteers and will be returning several more times before it’s finished. Let’s just hope the midges leave us alone next time.