Thank you Ivy for sharing these thoughts. This message from Ivy Denham is both practical and uplifting:
The floral diversity of old fashioned hay meadows are preserved and enhanced by annual hay cuts – where the seasons growth is cut and removed late summer. But it’s not always easy to get someone to cut and remove the hay each year. For those with small meadows, orchards, and areas difficult for machines to access, you could become a bit imaginative and ambitious about the project!
I’ve been working in a couple of nice meadows the past few weeks, and this is my story …
“Pilgrimage (n) – A journey with purpose on foot to holy / wholesome / special places… connecting you with yourself, others, nature and everything beyond”
(The British Pilgrimage Trust).
It’s a 20 minute walk into the meadows if I’m not carrying anything. 20 minutes of peace along a quiet valley – rocky, rugged and wild, pretty natural in this modern world. There is a feeling of calm as I pass through the gates and begin my own journey along the path.
This is my pilgrimage.
No phone signal. No WiFi. Repetitive tasks, giving me time to think.
Like after meditation, I return home feeling light headed and slightly removed from my body – maybe that’s just exhaustion!
Each stroke and movement has purpose, with them I know I’m contributing to something. The meadows will benefit during the coming year – an oasis tucked away in the hills. There is a blue sky hospital, benefits to spending time in green spaces, we are told to be more active.
I’m saving on gym membership.
I’m sure these meadows feel my pain, maybe because I leave a little piece of myself there each year … Maybe it’s actually me who would be lost without them. You don’t always have to wait for someone to come and do it for you, start chipping away at it yourself.
– It’s not for everyone;
– Every site is different, as is every season, even patches within one field will be harder work than others;
– Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen or if you have to miss a year / half the meadow;
– Get a decent strimmer harness, soak strimmer string, wear proper PPE, go on a course (scythe or strimmer);
– Cutting as short as possible makes raking easier, but gives you more grass to move;
– I read somewhere: A fit man can scythe an acre of grass in a day – well bully for him, it’s not a competition – If you cut and clear 5m² your doing good;
– Drag cut grass downhill to compost piles if possible;
– Let grass dry out, wildflower seeds will then dry, mature and fall to the ground as the grass is moved. Dry grass (hay) is a lot lighter than freshly cut grass;
– There are benefits to composting grass heaps: They are bug hotels, refuge and feeding places for beetles, toads, hedgehogs, smaller mammals, slow worms and grass snakes;
– People will think your mad – if your still reading this, you probably are.
Follow on with aftermath grazing by sheep or small ponies. They will nibble off winter grass growth and their small hooves will help press wildflower seed into the ground. Leaving the sward short, with much needed light reaching germinating wildflower seed next spring.
I found Ivy’s piece very interesting, being an old ignoramus (ie a non-farmer) who bought nine acres of rhos nearly thirty years ago, so I am thirty years older than when I bought it. Over 80 now, I am hoping to do my bit to save the Marsh Fritillary. Quite a few MF caterpillars are hibernating there right now – professionally confirmed by South and West Wales Wildlife Trust.
But I can’t do what Ivy describes, after two strokes affecting balance. Rhos is very clumpy and bumpy, and highly dangerous to post-stroke humans of 80 plus. So I desperately need animals to do my autumn to spring grass cutting for me (and for themselves – I expect they’d enjoy the grass. My problem is to find the animals and invite them onto my land. Preferably not sheep, I think, because their nibbly way with grass doesn’t suit rhos. If you have a small herd of Aurox they would munch and tear with their tongues much more happily. Welsh ponies would do fine if you don’t happen to keep an Aurox herd. Does any CMG animal-owner with transport for their animals to Capel Cynon (a few miles over the Carmarthen border into Ceredigion – I expect you know where Capel Cynon is) think it worth her/his while to eat my grass? Free, of course. Good access from A486 at Capel Cynon, and a secure site with double gate between the animals and the road.
If more details are of interest just email Eric on , or phone 01570 471367.
Hi Ivy what a lovely story really made me feel happy and so glad to know how mc h you love and care for your land – keep going please and enjoying it! It took me back to my childhood and my father’s farm, can even remember haymaking and sitting on top of the haycart going into the stackyard – woho well before health and safety took the fun away.
Penguin classics are a must for you.This is spiritually great.Hilaire Beeloc,s “The mowing of a field”Selelcted essays.Page 38.Do read it. 1958 .Best wishes.