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Celebrating Meadows

Posted: Sunday 18th June 2017 by Twheatear

Meadow flowers and a marbled white butterfly

Twheatear visits a very special local habitat...

A century ago hay meadows were a normal, indeed essential, part of the agricultural landscape, providing the food that kept livestock alive during the winter. More intensive agricultural systems have since declared them an inefficient use of land, so they’ve become a rarity and we have special days to celebrate those that are still maintained.

Gwent is relatively rich in traditional meadows, and GWT and the Monmouthshire Meadows Group today shared a joint meadows open day. Five sites were open, but there’s so much to see that we only made it to two in the time available – GWT’s Springdale Farm and the privately owned Llanllowell meadows.

At both sites the “grassland” is amazingly diverse, with grasses in the minority among a range of other plants from spotted orchids to rushes. Paradoxically this is because the soil is relatively low in fertility, so no single species is able to grow sufficiently vigorously to dominate. That range of potential food means a similarly wide range of insects can find a home in the meadows: during our walks around we spotted nine different butterflies: common blue, meadow brown, ringlet, gatekeeper, large skipper, speckled wood, green-veined white, marbled white, brimstone.

Do try to visit one or more of Gwent’s meadows this month. Most will be mowed - to make hay and keep the fertility down – in late July and then grazed through the autumn and winter. But till then they are one of the county’s visual and natural highlights.

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