Home > About meadows > Meadow management > Your site management

Your site management

Clifton hay bales
Photo credit: Bob Missin

When managing a site it is important to make a record of the following details:

  • Size of site.
  • If the hay was cut.
  • If so, dates of cut. Include all dates if different strips were cut at different times.
  • Type of animals on site after hay cut, and for how long.
  • Number of animals.
  • Number and type of hay bales.

All this information is really useful in interpreting plant community changes and learning the elements that can be damaging or beneficial to species-richness. You can tell us about these details through our meadow map. Follow the link to your meadow on our Meadow Map and click on the Meadow Watch link.

Here is a video footage showing some of the meadow managers we have worked with.

Plant indicators

Decisions about what management action to take at a site can be made by looking for key plant indicators, or by recognition of change in typical management activity. For example extensive summer floods may result in a missed or late hay cut, or sites may become too wet to sustain species-rich meadow communities. See below for a table of 'problem plants' and what environmental or management conditions they may indicate.

 

Plant What does this indicate? Possible causes Possible solutions
Soft rush

Waterlogging

Acidification

Soil disturbance

Silting up ditches and grips. Stock poaching in wet conditions

Restore surface drainage

Apply lime

Avoid overgrazing

Sharp-flowered rush

Wet soil

Low nutrient availability

Silting up ditches and grips

Improve surface drainage and consider addition of farmyard manure

Cut before flood likely to drown shoots

Greater pond-sedge

Waterlogging

Late or missed cuts resulting in a rank sward

Silting up ditches and grips

Late (after 15th July) or missed hay cuts, lack of management

Restore surface drainage

Cut early (mid June)

Reed sweet-grass, reed canary grass Ditch siltation and water overspill into meadow resulting in waterlogging Silting up ditches and grips

Maintain ditches,

Cut twice (or at least once!)

Slender tufted-sedge, lesser pond-sedge

Ponding of low lying areas

Consecutive wet summers

Silting up ditches and grips

Maintain surface drains

Cut twice annually for three years (see control of invasive sedges case study)

Common nettle Eutrophication

Late or missed hay cuts

Flooding with nutrient-rich water

Cut early (mid June)

Cut twice annually (June and September)

Maintain surface drains

Work with agencies to reduce nutrient levels in wider catchment

Marsh ragwort

Waterlogging

Soil disturbance

Silting up ditches and grips

Stock poaching in wet conditions

Cut early (mid June)

Avoid overgrazing

Consider winter sheep grazing

Hogweed

Eutrophication

Lowering of water level in the river or ditches

Flooding with nutrient-rich water

Late or missed hay cuts

Alteration of river management

Over abstraction

Maintain surface drains

Work with agencies to reduce nutrient levels in wider catchment

Cut early (mid June)

Cut twice annually (June and September)

 

Curled dock

Waterlogging

Eutrophication

 

Silting up ditches and grips

Late or missed hay cuts

Restore surface drainage

Cut early (mid June)

 

Spear thistle, creeping thistle

Eutrophication

Soil disturbance

Late or missed hay cuts

Stock poaching in wet conditions

 

Cut early (mid June)

Avoid overgrazing

Creeping buttercup, hard rush Compaction resulting in waterlogging Poor timing of grazing and vehicle access Avoid vehicle access in wet conditions; avoid grazing when soil too wet to support animals
False oat-grass, creeping thistle Accumulation of ditch spoil above the normal field level Insensitive ditching works Spread ditch spoil
Tussocks of course grasses (e.g. false oat-grass, cock's-foot, tufted hair-grass, Yorkshire fog)

Late or missed cuts

Lack of grazing

Late or missed hay cuts

Accumulation of litter through under grazing

Cut early (mid June)

Cut twice annually (June and September)

Temporary fencing to keep animals in restricted areas

Revise stocking densities/reinstate aftermath grazing

 

Management for wildlife

A rich array of species have adapted to the cycle of hay cutting, aftermath grazing and periodic inumdation. Many of these species benefit from the margins and areas of transition between one vegetation type and another, and management requirements vary. It is important to remember that hisoric management at a site will have shaped the range of taxa, and this pattern should be maintained where known. Adapting management to the needs of a particular species is not advisable as there will be impact on other interest features, Below is a table which outlines management approaches that be used for the benefit of different species groups.

 

Management options Species group Objective
Carry out a breeding-bird survey in spring Birds Check if there are any ground-nesting birds using the site and identify locations
Consider a staggered cutting pattern Birds, invertebrates, mammals Try to avoid areas where there are nests until young have fledged. Allow some areas to be cut later on an annual rotation to allow small mammals to escape and to provide invertebrate habitat for longer
Rotate staggered cutting Birds, invertebrates When there are breeding birds nesting, avoid nest sites, and avoid cutting the same areas at the same time year on year
OR consider cutting in a spiral pattern from the inside out if corncrake or curlew are present Birds, invertebrates, mammals This would enable fledgling birds, invertebrates and small mammals to escape the machinery
Maintain margins and boundaries Invertebrates Irregularly cut areas contribute towards an overall habitat diversity in the landscape, which will benefit invertebrates
Leave uncut margins and fringes of vegetation alongside watercourses on a rotational basis Invertebrates mammals Allow some margins to be left uncut each year and rotate uncut margins between years
Consider type of livestock Invertebrates Beetle abundance was found to be higher in cattle-grazed swards than those grazed by sheep during an aftermath-grazing study (Woodcock et al. 2006)

 

Managing a floodplain meadow in an urban environment

Managing a meadow in an urban environment can be a challenge for all sorts of reasons. We put together an article on this issue in the July 2011 newsletter which included some case studies from managers around the country. The longer versions of the case studies are found below:

Gloucester City Council

Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows (York)