With Midsummer now behind us, we have reached the point in the year where the vibrant green growth of summer is slipping past its peak. Indeed, after the heat of the last few months, some areas are already starting to look really rather wild, a good two to three weeks earlier than usual. The meadow won’t be cut until the end of August, when all the wildflowers have gone to seed, but where there are more grasses than anything else, we are beginning the process of cutting.
In woodland burial areas where the trees are still very young, this means ‘topping’: we strim down to around 10″, raking off the heavier cut, and leaving the finer arisings to mulch down. We start around the youngest saplings, and work back to where the trees are themselves suppressing the grass growth. Where the short grass is dry, it will green up and grow again but, as it has already seeded, this second surge of growth won’t have the density of the first. Nor will it take up so much water, leaving the moisture in the soil for the little trees.
Parts of the broader grassland areas will be cut over the next month too. In the northern part of the site, where there will be woodland in time, our management map divides it into 1/3 – 1/2 acre sections, cut in cycles of 3 or 4 years or longer. Each year, 3 or 4 such small sections are cut, the arisings left to mulch down, adding some fertility and texture to the soil. Where there will be wildflower meadow in the future, the cuttings will be baled and taken off.
The third type of grass management is, of course, the mown paths and verges. These different approaches make for three different grassy habitats, for invertebrates, birds and mammals. You’ll see hares using the mown paths as easy ways to move around the site, diving into the long grass to hide when need be. Wagtails enjoy the shorter grass too, picking out flies, spiders and beetles. Over the uncut grass, you’ll see skylarks, linnets, goldfinches and other birds, taking both flies and seeds. There are skylarks and partridge nesting in the long grass. And on the mown paths, you’ll see daisies, clover, hop trefoil and cut-leaf geranium, making the most of the light.