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We bought a field

The story of an 11.4 acre field in South West Shropshire

Plans

1) 2021/2+

2) 2020

3) 2018-2019

I've done an updated plan of the field, taking into account work done in 2020. The Field Barn is due to be repaired and brought back to its tin sheet-clad glory! The pond next to the wetland area has been enlarged with a hibernaculum to the north. Simon's raptor post is in position in the top wood, and the paths through the trees are marked.

We have decided not to fence off the tumps area but manage it (when we need to) with electric fencing which can be temporary. We may add a small area of shrubby trees at the bottom left and updated the planting plan in the top wood (at Jan 2020). The main part of the field is now being managed as a hay meadow; the tumps managed with sheep grazing only in the autumn months.

The field as we bought in in September 2018, completely open with no trees. The wetland at the bottom was drained with a metre-wide field drain and the land grazed by sheep approx 10 or 11 months of the year. The field barn bottom right was a ruin.

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new field plan jan 20.jpg
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The Field is 11.4 acres and directly South facing. We are lucky because the field is varied in aspect and topography, having some areas that are steeply sloping, others that are almost flat. The ground is mainly free draining overall, except in the bottom section where it is rushy and damp (soggy in the winter). The hedging around the field is a mix of Hazel, Blackthorn and Hawthorn with some Holly and Willow mixed in. There are some areas of good hedging and some where the hedges no longer exist.

 

After acquiring the field in late September 2018 sheep were removed and we were advised to leave the field to its own devices for nine to 12 months to see what may be growing there. We were amazed to find by June and July 2019 that the field (lower part in particular) was full of wild flowers and a variety of meadow grasses. A plant list was drawn up in April which was added to in the summer months. A fungi list had been done the previous winter.

The best of the botanical interest is in the lower third, on and around the thin-soiled tumps with their anthills (Yellow Meadow Ants). The grassland in the upper two thirds was grown for hay in 2019 for the first time in at least 20 years and nearly 70 big, dense round bales were taken off. 

Sheep went back on to the whole field in September 2019 for the autumn months, came off in the depths of winter and went back on for 3 weeks in March 2020 before the field was shut up for the summer.

Currently the outline medium to long-term plan is:

1) to manage the lower tumps for their anthill 'meadows', with sheep grazing (late summer/autumn and early spring). Ongoing; needs close attention to prevent under (or over) grazing.

2) to plant mixed native trees in the top third of the field and create a 'riparian' shelter belt down the West side. The new plantings will be livestock fenced. No trees will be planted near the tumps. (Planting and fencing done, Jan 2020). Planted/fenced 2020.


3) to manage the haymeadow traditionally, using sheep for grazing. We sowed some Yellow Rattle in July 19 and sowed further seed in Nov 2020 and Nov 2021. Ongoing. More work needed!


4) to re-wet the bottom area by allowing water from the land drain to leach into the ground and create more boggy ground. As well as providing wet habitat this helps 'slow the flow' of the Redlake River into which the drain empties over the lane - as well as helping to 'filter' the water of sediment. Completed July 2020.


5) to plant the damp area with 'wet woodland' trees, including Alder and Willow in particular. Done with the help of the Severn Tree Trust, Dec 2020.


6) to create open ponds/scrapes in this area - for more wet habitat. Dug, winter 2020.


7) when finances and time allow, repair the open field barn in the lower part of the field so it provides shelter for birds/animals/bats etc. Include bird/bat boxes if these are appropriate. To be done Spring 2022 with grant support from Faming in Protected Landscapes programme.

(August 2019, updated Nov 19 and Mar 21)