Wildflower Meadows at Combe Grove
Wildflowers Meadows at Combe Grove
In their role as land stewards, the Estates Team have implemented a conservation style meadow management plan for the wildflower meadows that sit within the 64-acre Estate. A benefit of this form of land management is that wild and rare plants have taken seed, including a singular bee orchid, Ophrys apofera. Pyramidal orchids, Anacamptis pyramidalis, have become more prolific along with St. John’s Wort and Oregano, both of which are not commonly found growing wild due to the decline in British meadowland.
The history of Wildflower Meadows
Historically meadows were for livestock grazing and the production of hay, however, the protection of meadows are crucially important in support of biodiversity. Meadows are natural habitats for small mammals, birds and insects, providing both food, wildlife corridors and protection. Wildflower meadows help to increase plant diversity and through pollination, these wild plant species will continue to thrive. With the decline in natural habitats, pollinators such as bees, butterflies and moths are also on the decline, so planting wildflowers benefits the whole ecosystem.
At Combe Grove, the wildflower meadows are cut half at a time. To encourage perennial flowers and grasses to make good root development, it is important to mow the meadow in the first year after sowing. The taller grasses will have deeper roots, adding more organic matter to the soil, in turn allowing the soil to hold more water. It is important to allow the meadow to grow long before cutting.
The meadows are cut using the traditional scything method. A scythe is a curved blade fitted at an angle to a wooden handle that is often used to traditionally cut grain. Scythes enable better control over cutting and allow for improved biodiversity, leaving habitat for small mammals, unlike mowing.
How to create a Wildflower Meadow
To create your own wildflower meadow, start with a soil seed bank, creating natural storage of seeds below the surface, within leaf litter or mulch. Alternatively, oversew soil with wildflower seeds to speed up the germination process. Combe Grove has oversewn land using Emorsgate Seeds, a company that is dedicated to British species. You can see these meadows on entry opposite Quarry Woods and in front of The Barn. When walking in these areas we would urge you to be careful and mindful of the wild species that grow here and enjoy them from the paths cut through the meadows.
As the Estate journeys towards a self-sustaining site, sheep will be introduced to the meadows with conservation grazing and there will be a specific area for hay. As with all planting, Combe Grove refrains from using pesticides and relies on natural and organic pest control. Check out the Healthy Soil, Healthy Vegetables journal post to see more about how Combe Grove practices organic land management.
As we finalise our ‘get to know you’ programme, members will have the opportunity to explore the Estate with the Team, understand in greater detail the work that underpins the growth you see within the Estate and its importance on the wider environment.