A note of thanks to all our lovely volunteer rakers this year. Following problems with the machinery, our raking days were a little scattered, but we did manage to catch a group of you in this lovely photograph. Thank you! There is still more mowing and raking to get done, so I’ll thank those who are yet to join us too!
Although it sounds like the most perfectly natural state, in actual fact keeping a wildflower meadow as a wildflower meadow takes a good deal of management. Left to its own natural processes, after the flowering, the plants would go to seed, then die back. Falling so they lie on the earth, the vegetation would matt in the damp, rotting, like a compost heap, all the rich nutrients of their growth going back into the soil.
Wildflowers, though, need a soil with low fertility. If the soil became richer in the areas where we are growing wildflowers, instead of that beautiful display of betony, selfheal, knapweeds, mallow, trefoils, and so on, we’d begin to get the richer grasses once again colonising the land. Furthermore, without mowing, we’d soon get blackthorn, hawthorn, maple and birch seedlings. Within a few years it would look like scrub land, and within ten it would be on the way to woodland.
In order to maintain a nature reserve as a patchwork of diferent habitats, offering the richest potential biodiversity to the broadest array of wild flora and fauna, we must manage the land carefully. We mow the long growth of summer in the wildflower meadows, raking off the arisings to compost them them elsewhere. That compost can then be used to help plant trees in areas where the soil fertility can afford to be higher.