Meadow survey – Broadoak

On June 13th 2012, Chris Parsons, Stephanie Boocock  and Viv Phillips from DMG’s committee visited beside the River Severn at Broadoak.

There are several fields here where hay is made annually and a flock of Balwen sheep graze the land. There is also well-grown, broad-leaved woodland plantation and a new large pond.

The survey concentrated on a large field including the pond area. which will be the focus of efforts to increase the extent and diversity of wild flowers. The main part of the field was dominated by grasses and coarser species cocksfoot and false oat grass were frequent in parts. However quite a long list of species of grasses and flowers was recorded.

A range of native grasses was found including the fine-leaved species sweet vernal grass, red fescue, crested dogstail and meadow-grasses; all species of lowland meadows.  A number of wild flowers are present though none are in large amounts. Black knapweed, ox-eye daisy, cowslip, common catsear and birds foot trefoil are generally good indicators of  unimproved meadow and these will certainly spread over time under the current management. Other wildflowers present included ribwort plantain, yarrow, red clover, black medic, common sorrel, dove’s foot cranesbill and violets.  Spotted medic was also found . This plant has a southern distribution and used to be mainly coastal but has increased in recent years and the new Flora of Gloucestershire (2009) shows that though it has become more common it is mainly restricted to land associated with the river Severn.

The distribution of wild flowers is patchy and desirable species such as birds foot trefoil and catsear were particularly abundant on the banks of the new pond  where  ground disturbance associated with digging the pond has allowed germination before a covering of grass establishes.   It was suggested that this a good area to concentrate on , extending the wild flower-rich zone outwards.

A continuation of the current management of annual hay removal and sheep grazing will gradually reduce the fertility, which is fuelling grass growth at the expense of other plants.  Grazing the area hard including in the late winter to open the sward just before the spring growth would be beneficial.  Allowing flowers to set seed before taking the hay will help them to spread so a mid-July cut is recommended.