I know I thought I’d be posting an article on greenwood this week – but once again grass has distracted me. For a couple of years I’ve been working with a small group to promote traditional grassland management at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum.
This year we made hay by hand on a small area of grassland but it was hard work as the grass was rank. We faced many years of work to get it to the standard of a wildflower meadow, a once common but now very rare and endangered habitat. It’s not just the wildflowers that are endangered, but it’s now becoming clear that the many species which rely on the flowers, including our honey bees, are also suffering as modern intensive and industrial farming techniques have relegated wildflowers to the status of weeds (I think I’ll stop that rant before I get really going).
Here’s where the Olympics comes in. If you saw the opening ceremony of the London games this year you will have seen the opening scene of England’s green and pleasant land in the form of wildflower meadows. I’m not a fan of the Olympics – but I was very impressed by the opening ceremony and particularly the opening scenes. It turns out that the turf for the scene was grown at Wild Flower Turf’s farm near Basingstoke www.wildflowerturf.co.uk using their soil-less system which allows a high proportion of wildflowers to be established in the turf.
Having produced more turf than was needed the company was looking for somewhere to put down the spare rolls of turf that came back from London and it would have been rude to refuse after all?
So on Wednesday I went down to the museum to talk to James from Wildflower Turf and Keith Datchler from the Beech Estate, Battle, East Sussex about the management of the new wildflower meadow and promptly found myself enrolled into the select band of volunteers with David, John and Allan laying the turf.
Great stuff this soil less turf, just like rolling out the green carpet. The process was a lot quicker than it would have been with traditional turf as the rolls are based upon a form of matting, a lot larger than a normal turf roll and it enables a higher proportion of wildflowers to be established in the sward as a bonus. There are dozens of varieties in the mix and I’m delighted that it includes self-heal and red clover which were already present in the area. Instant flower meadow!
Just another couple of barrow loads and the meadow will be done. Richard Pailthorpe, museum director helps us get the job finished. Just add plenty of rain and a little frost then wait for more rain, sunshine and some warmth for the flowers to do their thing. Oh and don’t forget to cut it in August before repeating the process. Simples!
All done. The new meadow looks a little threadbare and the small patch of wildflowers in the middle are certainly feeling the cold.
I’m looking forward to seeing how our instant flower meadow performs next year, here’s how the site looked just a couple of months ago in August after I’d cut the grass, tedded it and then cocked up the hay.