HOLLYM CARRS NATURE RESERVE – BURNHAM MEADOW

When we acquired Hollym Carrs land in the early 1990’s it was touch-and-go whether we would include the 8 acres of meadow because it was not particularly species-rich. It had not been farmed for an arable crop for many years, but the grasses were an un-naturally diverse mix including fodder-crop species such as perennial rye-grass, timothy and brown-top bent. Interesting herbs were few but included pepper saxifrage, sneezewort and cuckoo-flower. There was little else of conservation value and strong evidence of high nutritional soil condition holding down species diversity. It was decided to buy the land and to either graze it with cattle or sheep, or remove a hay or haylage crop annually to reduce soil fertility.

We never managed to graze the meadow which, in a way, was a good thing in that depletion of soil nutrients has been more rapid in the absence of dung. The flooding of June 2007 did us an immense favour. It wiped out most of the agricultural grasses and allowed species such as meadow foxtail to proliferate and dominate the sward. It very soon became grassland of a type like the Wheldrake Ings which has National Biodiversity Action Plan status. Although still not as species-rich as Wheldrake we had the basis on which to obtain Higher Level Stewardship payments. With continued properly-timed annual hay cuts and the species-diversity has increased multi-fold. Each year we see new species, the most surprising being yellow rattle, bird’s-foot trefoil and black bent. It is suspected that the yellow rattle has been introduced on hay making machinery.

In this one random snapshot of a freshly mown swathe, just as it dropped, there is sweet vernal, Yorkshire fog, black bent, red fescue, glaucous sedge, amphibious bistort, meadow buttercup, bird’s-foot trefoil and tufted vetch.

The hay cut in progress on 29 June 2018, here by Mr Martin Fisher. It is only a light crop but one of very high quality.

After 25 years of patience I think we can slap ourselves on the back for creating the right conditions for naturally occurring species to prosper. We can say that this meadow did not originate in a bag!