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 will go back on to the whole field in August/September 2019 for the autumn months.
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)
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.
3) to manage the haymeadow traditionally, using sheep for grazing. We sowed some Yellow Rattle in July 19.
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.
5) to plant the damp area with 'wet woodland' trees, including Alder and Willow in particular.
6) to create open ponds/scrapes in this area - for more wet habitat.
7) when finances and time allow, restore 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.
We will do some soil testing shortly to establish pH and soil structure.
(August 2019, updated Nov 19)
Our plans for the field (Jan 2020)
(click on drawing for larger version)
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 will add a small area of shrubby trees at the bottom left by the ditch and updated the planting plan in the top wood (at Jan 2020). All other parts of the plan remain the same as the annotated version below!