Dean Meadows Group was formed in 2012 with the intention of boosting our meadows and everything to do with them. Apart from the Parish Grasslands Project at St Briavels, little is known of how many meadows there might be across the Dean and what state they are in.
Meadows can be large fields, bits of orchard, parts of a garden, flowery roadside verges or just grass waiting to be allowed to turn into something wonderful. The Group is interested in all sorts of grasslands.
Put another way our mission is to promote the conservation and appreciation of native local wildflowers in the Forest of Dean, to improve and increase their habitat in hay meadows, grass lands, unimproved pastures, orchards and other places. This in turn will benefit a wide range of creatures from butterflies to birds and bats.
Our members will get expert advice on management if they have their own ground, learn more about flowers and wildlife, see other people’s meadows and , no doubt, hear really interesting talks.
FOR ADVICE AND INSPIRATION
Dean Meadows Group ” anniversary” press article March 2013
The Dean Meadows Group was formed just over a year ago when a public meeting in Westbury on Severn was attended by 130 people. Speakers from the Monmouthshire Meadows Group, the Parish Grasslands Project in St Briavels and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust gave us a lot of support and there was enthusiasm to form a group for the whole of the Dean.
Meadows are, of course, special plant communities that develop to thrive under traditional management. The most important thing is to leave the grasses and flowers to grow and seed before the hay is cut. Usually meadows should be left until mid July so that hay can be taken off for animal fodder but seed is left for the plants to survive. After the hay has been cut meadows are usually grazed by sheep or cattle.
Traditional meadows are ecologically important as the undisturbed soil stores carbon , they are rich in bio-diversity and are important for many insects such as hoverflies, butterflies and moths and for birds. Once lost a meadow would take many many years to restore, rather like an ancient woodland they are almost irreplaceable. Meadows are an important part of our food supply chain and can provide good local meat and dairy produce.
The group set out to grow its membership from meadow owners and from other people who had a small piece of land or were just interested in wild flowers. We started by arranging open days at The Meeting House in Flaxley which has several fields of wonderful wild flower meadows and some other meadows nearby. As members joined they were entitled to a proper botanical survey where group botanists identified the plant species and gave them a report with management advice. Over the year our membership grew to over 50 households, and 22 of them had surveys and reports. In total 170 plant species have been recorded, with 44 per site on average, 53 species are of conservation value, 3 sites had Green Winged Orchids which are nationally important and others had Ladies Tresses or Common Spotted Orchids.
Over the last year Dean Meadows Group was able to provide local meadow seed for members, to offer sheep management training ( with Wye Valley AONB, Monmouthshire Meadows and Parish Grasslands), and a traditional hedge laying course. We worked with Westbury C of E School to clear a small site and plant seed for a new meadow in 2013 and also at Flaxley Churchyard to mow later in the year and encourage more wildflowers there. After the so called summer we had an evening meeting in Bream where these projects were reviewed and some members told us about their own experiences of starting a meadow.