28 August 2012

Chewing it over

At Winks (Metfield) meadow, the grassland management alternates from year to year - hay cutting one year followed by summer grazing the next - though it does not always follow this pattern exactly as the amount of growth and keep varies from season to season. Summer grazing may either be cattle or sheep or a combination of the two.
This summer is a grazing one, and as I write this, a small flock  is contentedly munching away.
As Winks meadow is so herb-rich, I always imagine the grazing and indeed the hay must be something of a delicatessen for the livestock  - with a wonderful mix  of subtly different flavours and aromas with which to stimulate the palate! The scent given off by the freshly crushed herbs and grass beneath ones foot fall or where the sheep have been lying down is often very sweet.
The sheep also seem to be very selective, able to carefully eat around the plants that they favour less or perhaps are more palatable at a slightly different time. I was very struck by the way they had eaten the sweet grasses but were able to leave the diminutive fairy flax - may be it is a bit wiry!
One thing the sheep seem to do very well is tackle some of the less desirable species such as creeping thistle and  the blackthorn suckers that creep in from the edge.
Winks meadow is a little too far away from the main area that the Suffolk Wildlife Trust flock can graze, so we are grateful to local farmer -  John Sanderson - for arranging the grazing with his sheep. 

17 August 2012

Taking a breather

At this time of year, the meadows begin to take on a slightly different feel.  The promise of spring has passed and many of the wildflowers and grasses have gone over and set seed. Most of the hay has been cut and the early season hum of pollinating insects seems to have been replaced by the click and whirr of grasshoppers and crickets or the buzz of wasps and hornets as they begin to feed on the early blackberries and ripening plums and bullaces in the hedges.
The vibrant greens of spring and summer growth  have given way to the deeper greens of lengthening shadows and mature leaves against a back drop of the most fantastic Suffolk August skies.
The meadows feel as if they are quietly resting in the late summer sun.