We are often asked why certain grassy areas of our parkland are left to grow longer and more naturally, while other areas are mown on a more frequent basis.
We pay close attention to each piece of green space under our care, with comprehensive management plans that cover growth cycles throughout the year. When it comes to the grassy areas, some of the key factors we look at include where it is, the wildlife nearby and what plant life can also be found.
For this reason, some areas may be left to grow to encourage wildflowers and other vegetation.
Below is a series of images taken in the same spot at two locations, Furzton Lake and Tattenhoe Park, over a period of around five months. As you can see, the changes are incredible, with some beautiful wildflowers appearing for a short time before nature continues its course and they disappear, to be replaced by new growth.
In April, the area is seemingly primarily grass, although if you look closely some flowers can be seen, including Common Daisies Bellis perennis and the beginnings of Yarrow Achillea millefolium and Selfheal Prunella vulgaris
By May, as the below photographs illustrate, the wildflower meadow has become a real treat for the eyes. As well as Common Daisies Bellis perennis and Meadow Buttercups Ranunculus acris, there is Red Clover Trifolium pratense, Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare and Narrow Leaf Plantain Plantago lanceolate.
Within two months the meadow has changed again. The bright Daisies Bellis perennis and Red Clover Trifolium pratense have been replaced with Hawkbits Leontodon and Yarrow Achillea millefolium. As the area’s plants seed and start to dry out the area will be mown and the hay gathered for organic animal feed.
As with Furzton Lake, in April this area looks to be completely covered with grass, and only those with keen eyes will spot Meadowsweet leaves Filipendula ulmaria and flowers such as Cowslip Primula veris.
May and June:
Summer growth is well underway as the weather warms up, and you can see the grasses and flowers have shot up. The cowslip is joined by Buttercups Ranunculus acris, Rattle Rhinanthus minor, Yellow Vetchling Lathyrus aphaca, Plantains Plantago lanceolate and Speedwell Veronica.
This is the month when the wildflower meadow at Tattenhoe Park is at its most beautiful, and very deserving of its status as a species rich grassland. With a carpet of pink and cream flowers, plus many more to spot, it is well worth a visit – but be quick as they won’t hang around for long! In the photos below, you may be able to spot Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, Betony Stachys officinalis, Lady's Bedstraw Galium verum and Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis.
And then the flowers disappear, to make way for grasses, which will then be mown for hay, and to prepare the site for regrowth.
The reason we take hay from these areas is basically twofold:
- By cutting and removing the arisings (by-product) it reduces the nutrients being released back into the ground. This action favours the wildflower species that struggle to compete with grass species in the more nutrient rich areas.
- The arisings are used as organic feed for our overwintering cattle and sheep kept at Home Farm, Castlethorpe
As you can see, these areas are constantly changing throughout the seasons, which is why we leave them to develop on their own. Why not complete your own record of the changes that take place in a wildflower meadow throughout the year? We would love to see your photos! Why not sure them with us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.