Saturday, 28 January 2012

A short burst of biodiversity

Hay meadows are vital corridors of biodiversity through the English countryside.
This video, featuring photographs taken in late summer after the hay crop has been cut and harvested, illustrates sheep feeding on the new grass growth at the same time as they lightly fertilise the field and spread the vital seeds to start the process all over again.


An English Hay Meadow before cutting

 In the longer version of this video, Fields of Diamonds by Johnny Cash was chosen a) because I like it and b) because of its simple message and melody. In this version Fields of Diamonds is sung by Joy Norman as her version has a slightly punchier feel to it.

To get closer to the sheep and grass the set of pictures where the flock come up the meadow towards me was achieved by lying on my back with my feet pointing in their direction and their curiosity meant they just had to come up and see what was going on! I had to take the pictures through my wellies so the sight of me in the middle of a field, spread-eagled taking pictures of sheep would have been worth a picture itself.
Part of the biodiversity argument is the use of natural fertiliser and “The art of muck heap management” is the subject of another of my blogs. We use high quality Bedmax Shavings (other shaving suppliers are available) which need a lot of wet to rot down. But we use the shavings to help support a horse who is prone to laminitis rather than for bio-diversity reasons. I think it was at Badminton Horse Trials where I told the lady from Bedmax that their shavings don't readily rot down and she suggested we turned the hose on the muck heap which didn’t feel very sustainable!
In terms of an increase in wildlife then I haven't counted but it does make me look and think. Last year I noticed a larger number of butterflies in the hay before it was cut and foxes, badgers and rabbits use the meadow at will when they feel it is safe to do so. We've no shortage of birds, but I don't think I could claim an increase in "ground nesting birds" at present but at least I'm giving them a chance.