Bringing Wildlife Closer to Home
The Meadow, shrubbery and boundaries
Wet grassland is a feature of the Great Ouse valley. However, it is not always accessible to those who are unable to walk far. So one of the targets of the project at Sudbury Meadow is to try to maintain a small meadow close to residential areas which people can easily enjoy.
The footpath conveniently splits the site into two sections, which we refer to as lower and upper meadow. Lower meadow floods virtually every year at the bottom right corner. Upper meadow only floods from the river in extreme conditions, but can be waterlogged at other times. We try to cut the two sections at different times to encourage butterfly breeding and also maintain habitat for grass snakes. You can read more about the cutting plans in the Management Plan.
Above left - View of lower meadow in July. Above right - View of upper meadow in May.
Due to its late autumn or early spring cut, lower meadow has many perennial flowering plants, such as meadow cranesbills, cow parsley, teasels, meadowsweet and thistles! Not strictly a meadow, but at least goldfinches and insects love it. Upper meadow has more grass and a large nettle bed, which was destined to be destroyed until we discovered that it is the preferred breeding site for small tortoiseshell butterflies. We now aim to keep it under control.
The shrubbery is in the south-east corner of lower meadow and was planted in March 2003. The aim is to provide visitors with a visual guide to some of the native hedgerow shrubs they can find locally. Information boards have been installed and a mown footpath is maintained around the shrubs. Coppicing of selected shrubs began in 2011 and will be continued to keep the shrubs to a reasonable height.
left - The
shrubbery in July.
Above right - Partially
flooded shrubbery in
There are hedgerows along three of Sudbury Meadow's boundaries. The Crosshall Road hedgerow had become overgrown with ivy before Friends of Sudbury Meadow took over management. Parts of it have been retained, mainly because of the ivy which flowers and fruits so well each year. A new mixed species hedge was planted in December 2002, inside a new boundary fence, and this has matured well.
The original hedges along the north and east boundaries had not been maintained for years so had become a series of trees and shrubs. The eastern shrubs, largely blackthorn, have been allowed to grow almost unchecked, providing great shelter for birds. An inner mixed hedge was planted along the northern boundary in March 2002, and laid in March 2011.
Above left - Crosshall Road hedge in May. Above right - Northern laid hedge in May.
Above - View across lower meadow to the eastern hedgerow in July.
All the boundaries are proving to be great wildlife corridors, not just for birds but also grey squirrels and other small mammals. Muntjac deer frequently shelter in them during the day. Not such good news for the flowers on site!
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