Conservation grazing is about to start on North Meadow National Nature Reserve . Grazing with cattle following the hay cut is of vital importance to maintain biodiversity. North Meadow is a species rich lowland hay meadow habitat which is now very rare in the UK. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) estimate that less than 1500 ha of this habitat remain in the UK today.
North Meadow has a long history of consistent agricultural management consisting of a hay crop taken in July, followed by aftermath grazing. This form of management produces the species rich flower meadow which we enjoy today. Before the introduction of artificial fertilizers, this was one of the most sought after of all agricultural systems. The history of this method of agricultural management is explained by the Floodplain Meadows Partnership.
Preparing for Conservation Grazing
Over the last few days Court Members have installed 2.5 km of electric fencing. Court Members carry out daily checks on this fencing during the grazing season. This fencing is essential to ensure the cattle do not stray into adjacent fields or become trapped on the river banks.
The cattle drink from 8 pasture pumps which draw water from the River Churn. This avoids the need for the cattle to enter the River Thames and River Churn which is detrimental to river water quality and damages the river banks. Cattle entering the river disturb sediment causing problems for fish and other aquatic life.
There will be about 65 cattle grazing the meadow for around 10 weeks depending on ground conditions. In addition there will be up to 10 horses which may be on the meadow longer if conditions allow.
If you plan to visit the meadow during grazing please keep your dog on a short lead and follow the advice posted on each entrance gate.