Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Helen Walsh

Charlotte Karmali brings the latest news from the volunteers at Finemere Wood

The sun blazed down upon the volunteers as they met to complete the summer work at Finemere Wood. Work party after work party we have been cutting and raking grassy paths, rides, the drovers' track and finally tackling the ancient meadow within the wood, Long Close Meadow.

Yearly cutting of the meadow, once the flowering season is over, is important for the development of a species-rich grassland. It helps to keep the competitive plants, such as thistle and ragwort under control, allowing the more delicate flowers and grasses to flourish. It also stops the encroachment of scrub. 

There is something for everyone: Brushcutters for those trained, who enjoy the thrill of power tools; scythes for those who prefer the calm, mesmeric Poldark approach to grass cutting; and rakes for those who are happy to clear up the mess that is created.

Brushcutting

The grass stands six feet high, and there is a lot of it. The volunteers go forth with their usual gusto, weapons in hand and I watch as great clumps of grass begin to fall.

The rakers commence their unenviable task. The cuttings need to be removed to keep the fertility of the soil low. Leaving the grass to decompose in the meadow would increase the fertility and result in the grassland being taken over by fast-growing species such as nettle and bramble. Fork loads of grass are heaped onto piles on the edge of the meadow, providing a habitat for many creatures, including grass snakes and slow worms.

The volunteers collapse into hot sweaty heaps at the end of the day. The job is done, the meadow is cut. I have worked them to the bone, but they will be back in two weeks time, energy restored ready for more grueling work.

Crested dog's-tail

Crested dog's-tail by Richard Burkmar

Crested dog’s-tail (Cynosurus cristatus) is just one of many grasses that can be found in this meadow. Growing up to 75cm tall, it is a rigid grass with narrow green leaves. The upright flower spike is intricate and beautiful, flat on one side and a great food source for many species of butterfly. In the past, it has been used as a rat poison and woven to make hats and bonnets.

Come and join the Finemere Wood volunteers

Email Charlotte for more information 

Next work party dates: Thursday 27 September; Thursday 11 October; Thursday 25 October; 9.30am-3pm