Eynsham's Magnificent Meadows
As the old adage goes: 'Make hay when the sun shines'. Perhaps we are all feeling the heat, but it has been great weather for making hay. All the new meadows have now been mown and the hay taken off.
The largest of the new meadows, 'Carnival Meadow' had to be mown very early to accommodate the funfair. There was a good crop of hay and we were hoping it could be baled and used for fodder, but unfortunately - and despite the very polite notices from Cllr. Ross Macken - the Carnival Meadow was littered with dog pooh, albeit some nicely wrapped in plastic bags. This meant that Graham Podberry could not make hay and bale it and instead had to remove it immediately as compost.
In haymaking, the meadow is mown with a disk mower, the hay then 'tedded' (turned over and spread out) to allow it to dry before being raked and baled. In the process of tedding and raking the dried ripe seeds fall on the ground and are spread. This is particularly important for the 'meadow maker' - yellow rattle' - the semiparasitic annual that reduces the vigour of grasses. This allows the wildflowers, which are all perennials and often slow-growing, to flourish. This year, the combination of the very early cut for the funfair, and the fact that the hay was not tedded and raked, means that fewer ripe seeds were shed than would normally be the case for such meadows. Lets hope for a better outcome next season.
NRN scythers make hay at Dovehouse
Kathy Pelten expands:
On a hot, July, Saturday afternoon a group of Eynsham scythers, rakers and botanists met up at the Dovehouse Close Nature Recovery Network meadow. Our mission was to survey and record the plants growing there - and then to scythe the meadow.
Some of us had to learn how to identify all the various grasses. But with the help of the ID materials provided by Long Mead (and the expertise of Dovehouse ecologist, Jamie Peacock) it became much easier to distinguish the velvet heads of Timothy grass from the bristely spikes of ox tongue, and from the feathery heads Yorkshire fog, to name just a few. (But how did they all get these wonderful names?)
Although the grasses outnumbered the flowering plants, we found ragged robin, buttercups, snakeshead fritillaries, common knapweed, greater willow herb, autumn hawkbit, red and white campion, oxeye daisy, bristly oxtongue, and even devil's bit scabious (once lost, but now returned to Long Mead's floodplain meadow by the toll bridge).
Following expert tuition from Catriona, Kevan and Posy, several enthusiasts sharpened their scythes and (despite the heat) took up the challenge to get into the necessary rhythmic, side-sweeping action. The scything was much easier than last year thanks to the fine meadow grasses that have replaced the tough grasses in the original sward. The final tasks were to lift and gently toss the cuttings, so the seeds fell to the ground, and to also scatter some additional seed mix. More propagated meadow plants, which have been nurtured since last autumn by NRN's plant propagation group, will be added in September.
The Fishponds mini-Meadow in the carpark has proved to be a great success. This year it was full of yellow ratttle, so the grass was short, giving a chance for the wildflowers to take hold. Still, there was enough hay for tiffin for a small Shetland pony.
Gill Parry and Robin Saunders have been doing supplementary planting and nurturing it through the seasons. Kevan mowed it with his Italian version of an Allen scythe (i.e. a finger-bar mower) and Robin raked off the hay, which is an important step in reducing the nutrients.
St Leonards Churchyard.
The two sides of the churchyard have been the site of much meadow-making activity by Eynsham's church-going community and others. This spring, the snakeshead fritilliaries were the first to flower, followed by wildflowers such as cowslips, primroses, black knapweed, red campion, lady's bedstraw and foxgloves (seedlings from Anne Gingell, planted by Eynsham's Beavers). Teasels were planted in the dry stony surrounds and they are attracting insects and birds. Kevin McKeemey, Dave Russell and their Team did a stellar job in raking and removing this year's crop of hay.
Maybe the prize for the best crop of yellow rattle should go to the Peace Oak meadow. Somehow the yellow rattle seeds that were sown there particularly enjoyed their host grasses. A team of scythers mowed the meadow and made hay - while the sun shone, of course.
Two other greens in the village have been meadowised by the surrounding residents, including wildflowers propagated by the NRN plant group and Long Mead's carefarming participants. These meadows were also scythed, so Eynsham now has a growing band of villagers who can tell a snath from a windrow. It's the best of green gym: no petrol, no fumes, no noise, just swish-swish - what more could one want?