Friends of Belper Parks Ltd


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From Mowing to Mooing

During the past five years a flower rich meadow has been created and developed in Coppice Field in Belper Parks. This partnership project between Amber Valley Borough Council, Friends of Belper Parks, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Groundwork Derby & Derbyshire has been very successful at establishing a diverse range of wild flowers and this in turn has attracted a rich variety of insect life including butterflies, bumblebees and several unusual day flying moths.

This project has always aimed to establish a flexible management regime that is sympathetic to the needs of both flowers and meadow insects. Between 2008 and 2011 the meadow has been cut late (late August to late September) with the cuttings being baled and removed. Whilst this management is sufficient to maintain much of the floristic interest at the site there are adverse impacts as follows:-

Mechanical cutting can have an adverse impact on insect life resulting in increased mortality of adults, larvae and pupa; it also removes valuable sources of food including leaves, nectar and seeds. It eliminates in one day the above ground structure of the vegetation so that insects reliant on a diverse vegetation structure are significantly reduced in number. The compaction of the vegetation from the vehicle undertaking the cut also has an impact. This adverse impact is mitigated to some extent by ensuring that hay cuts are taken late and can be further mitigated by choice of equipment and cutting height. In addition there are several areas that do not get cut as they are on steep or marshy ground which the mower cannot reach.

Cattle grazing Pasture management with cattle grazing is generally considered to provide a more benign environment for many insects as it creates a mosaic of vegetation at different heights, creates areas of bare ground, allows flowering and seeding of plants and provides cow dung which can be a valuable habitat in its own right. Plants too will benefit from flowering, setting seed and the creation of gaps in the sward where seed can potentially germinate and establish. However, for the benefits of cattle grazing to be fully realised it is important that grazing is undertaken at the right time of year and stocking levels are sympathetic.

At the Coppice Field cattle grazing will also allow areas of steep and marshy ground to be grazed closer to the Coppice brook. This will have benefits for these areas as in recent years they have remained unmanaged.

In order to make grazing feasible fencing will be needed around the meadow. DWT’s preference is for as much of the grassland to be available for grazing as possible. Once fenced the management of Coppice Field can if desirable alternate between hay cuts with (or without) aftermath grazing or pasture management with cattle grazing.

There are also potential long term cost benefits from cattle grazing which is that it is likely to be cheaper than current contractor costs for hay cuts.

Kieron Huston MIEEM - Senior Local Wildlife Sites Officer - Derbyshire Wildlife Trust