Monday, 6 October 2008

Prize Bull

Last week-end, our Highland bull, Bacardi, won first prize at Great Gransden Show. Today we spent all day getting the whole herd out of the Great Meadow and across to Southoe for an appointment to get their nails done. I guess its the optician's next? Meanwhile we have 14 cattle in Paxton Meadow, at least until December.

The point of all this "conservation grazing" is to manage the meadows in a traditional way in order to accommodate the "traditional" wild flowers and wildlife that used to be found there. Grazing cattle make for a varied sward because they are fairly picky eaters, choosing the sweetest plants to eat first. They also plant the odd "meadow muffin" which attracts insects and enriches patches of soil, and they rough-up the ground to let seeds take hold.

A wet meadow with grazing cattle is such a typically English scene. Think of Granchester Meadows, or of a Constable painting. Unlike arable fields that have to be tidy and well drained, wet meadows can be boggy and lumpy. They can attract wading birds like redshanks, snipe and lapwings and an array of flowers such as lady's smock and cowslip. Portholme Meadow and St. Neot's Common are fine examples. That's what we are trying to create in our meadows.

After getting in the last of the harvest, I was just thinking that it would be nice to get into some scrub management, but I had forgotten that we needed to plant our winter wheat. Ranger Roland prepared the soil and volunteer Davy Jones drove the seed drill.