Posted by: lensweb | August 17, 2016

Coronation Meadow at Elvaston

A Coronation Meadow is to be created at Clover Close, one of the fields outside the main gates at Elvaston Country Park.  The shocking statistic is that 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost in the last 75 years. The Coronation Meadows Project, led by Plantlife with The Wildlife Trusts is working to create a new wild flower meadow in every county to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation.  Existing wildflower meadows, which are species rich semi-natural grasslands, managed with traditional methods, have been identified and are used as donor meadows giving seeds to matched local recipient grassland sites which will adopt traditional management techniques. In this way, new ‘Coronation Meadows’ will be created providing new homes for bees, butterflies and other pollinators and helping to secure our wild flower heritage for the next 60 years and beyond.

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Receptor sites such as Clover Close, are grasslands that lack the species diversity of meadows. Local volunteers from Elvaston Community with LENS members, carried out a baseline survey of grasses and wildflowers present in the field, learning hay meadow survey techniques and basic id. Iain Robertson, a ranger for Derbyshire County Council mapped the field and calculated the number of survey sites,  along transect lines each 30m apart from the next to give an overall true representation of species abundance and diversity.  A one meter square quadrat divided into 9 sections was thrown in the survey area and then species were scored as present or absent in the recorded number of sections.

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Yorkshire fog, cocksfoot, false oat grass and common bent were the most common grasses also some creeping bent, ryegrass, rough meadow grass and red fescue. Common sorrel, ribwort plantain and lesser stitchwort, were counted in almost every quadrat. Germander speedwell, meadow vetchling, common ragwort, creeping thistle, spear thistle, rosebay willowherb and hogweed flowered tall in the rank grass around the edge of the field with soft rush and hairy sedge one damp area. What a surprise to see some common knapweed, ladies bedstraw, rough hawkbit, common catsear, betony, tormentil and birds foot trefoil with a sprinkling of red clover. These could be along the line of a limestone strip that was created some years ago and are the sort of wildflowers we hope to see more of.  The relative diversity of species and abundance can be calculated using the baseline survey to compare with future surveys in  the ten years the project runs and into the future.

A circular walk around the field on 22 July gave a count of 59 skippers, small and Essex ,  2 large skippers, a brimstone, large white and green veined white, 14 gatekeepers, 29 meadow brown, 5 ringlets, and also some day flying moths, 6 spot burnet, silver Y and mother of pearl. I have never seen so many skippers.

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The same day we saw red admirals, peacock butterfly and small coppers.  During the survey a ghost moth and a smoky wainscot were disturbed. Other insects were brown hawker and common darter dragonflies, lesser marsh grasshoppers and long winged coneheads. There were hundreds of grass bugs and small grass moths and a variety of spiders and bugs.

The invertebrates will be monitored and Clover Close will be the 81st site for a Derbyshire Butterfly Transect from 2017. Ken Orpe, Derbyshire Butterfly Recorder will carry out training at Elvaston Country Park.

After carrying out the baseline survey, the hay was cut, turned, baled and collected by Mr Fitzhugh the farmer. It is important to remove the cut grass to reduce the nutrient content of the soil which benefits wildflowers.Elvaston Ranger, James, created bare ground by gentle tractor flailing, this is so that the introduced seed has open soil in which to establish. Clover Close was now ready for spreading the green hay which must be done fresh.

Erewash Meadows is the donor meadow for Derbyshire Coronation Meadows. These are meadows which have never been treated with artificial fertiliser or herbicide and 242 different wild flowers have been recorded.  Derbyshire Wildlife Trust provided a crop of ‘green hay’, hay that has been cut earlier than usual so it will be loaded with unshed wild-flower seeds. The meadow seed mix aims to include species likely to be suitable for, and do well at the Clover Close site. Plug plants will also be planted for those that don’t establish well with seed. The Elvaston Community Volunteers spread the green hay using rakes and pitchforks. As the field is split into thirds, this process will need to be repeated for two years.

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The management strategy will now be amended to create a species rich hay meadow.The hedge was relaid last year for stock proofing and the public footpath will be fenced off for cattle grazing.

Marion Bryce 17 August 2016

 

 

 


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