Pen Y Bont, Trelech

Very many thanks to Laurence Brooks for the following information, and photos, of his meadows

Meadow/Holding/Owner name and location:

Pen-y-Bont, nr Trelech – Laurence Brooks

1: How would you describe your meadow, e.g. stand alone, part of a smallholding, part of a farm, managed lawn?

We have three meadows making up about 5 acres of our 25 acres farm. One meadow is well established hay meadow, fairly diverse – the other two were fairly species poor pasture when we arrived in 2012 and have only been cut for hay for two and three years respectively, though last year were beginning to diversify with eyebright, yellow rattle, red clover and common bird’s-foot trefoil. We did plough up half of one of these for arable last autumn, as we have had such success with wintering finches on our other 1.5 acre arable field (which was overgrazed improved pasture in 2012). We planted about 20 well spaced apple trees in the main hay meadow when we arrived, so this will become an orchard (they’re still too spindly to call it that!) whilst maintaining the hay cut over the whole area.

2: How would you best describe your management of the meadow, and what are your priorities for the meadow e.g. commercial farm, hobby farmer/smallholder, purely managing the meadow on its own for its wildflowers/biodiversity?

We manage the farm as a farm and try to get as much agricultural production out of it as we can – but with the limiting factor being the farm habitats. So we increase/decrease stock numbers primarily based on how the habitat is developing and how much we’re struggling for pasture etc. We do buy in some concentrate feed but this is now when we have pigs and weaning bought-in calves and if we start to combine arable crops then we maybe can avoid this too. We have a small flock of sheep and buy in between three and six calves each year to sell at around two year old. We also have recently bought five goats to help bring some scrubby land back to grazed marshy grassland. We use the hay/silage/haylage to feed all these through the winter.

I see no contradiction between farm production and biodiversity – except the strange modern situation that unsustainably cheap food means the sustainable level of food production doesn’t generate profit.

3: Roughly how big is/are the meadow(s)?

The old meadow is 1.25 acre, the new meadows are about 2 acres each

4: Roughly how high above sea level?

We are fairly high but the farm is on a slope so it runs from about 180m above sea level down by the stream to 220m at the top gate.

5: How long have you been managing the meadow for wild flowers?

The main meadow looks to have been permanent meadow for maybe a decade or so, it is fairly diverse, though there are no particularly notable plants except for an abundance of eyebright. The other two meadows have been cut for hay for only 2-3 years respectively and are beginning to have more species from the older meadow spreading them in off farm machinery.

6: Do you know when the meadow was last ploughed/reseeded?

One of the fields (half of which we have now ploughed) was last ploughed for a potato crop about 15 years ago (says our neighbour – who was born on our farm). The others have not been ploughed in this time frame and presumably a lot longer. I’m not sure there has been any reseeding on the farm.

7: Do you know when the meadow last received fertiliser or farm yard manure?

There will not have been any for at least 15 years. I have found various empty bags of NPK fertiliser buried with other junk. They must be 20-30 years old – certainly 1970’s onwards. I suspect it went more or less all over, but the land is not too improved.

8: What do the field boundaries consist of, e.g. laid/regularly flailed hedges, banks with no hedges, fence only, mature hedges, mature trees?

There had been very little upkeep by the previous owners which at least means it was free of chemicals and fertilisers, but none the hedges had been laid or cut for about 15-20 years and very few fences maintained. Most of the hedges were down to sparse, leggy, old hawthorn bushes and the bases all grazed out. I have been laying hedges every winter since we arrived and about half are done. About a quarter I don’t need to do so we’re nearly there!

9: Is the meadow ever grazed by stock, and if so by what, and roughly when?

We graze the meadows with the sheep from about a month after cutting, then sporadically in the winter, though the animals are mainly housed, then again from March into May when there is not much grass but it is dry and nice. (Cattle are on the arable or indoors) This is flexible based on need, though we may settle down to a set pattern with 1-2 meadows grazed early and cut late (Aug-Sept) and the other 1-2 cut earlier (Jul-Aug) and available for earlier autumn grazing.

10: Is the meadow regularly cut, or burned and if so, when? And is the material removed and used as hay or bedding, or left on the field?

The hay is cut every year by our contractor neighbours and baled as small bales. We have always wrapped some as silage/halyage either due to poorer weather or because we can’t store enough hay but we’ve just installed a hay loft in a barn so we can do entirely small bale hay. We can’t store big bale hay as we don’t have sheds big enough for machinery.

11: Has the meadow ever received any herbicide treatment, and if so, what, and when?

I don’t know about herbicide but not for 15 years or so and I don’t think the effects persist that long.

12: Have you ever imported or scattered any flower seed or hay from other sources in the meadow?

I’ve sown seed of various plants that I collect either very locally or from other sites in west wales. They’re usually fairly common plants that fit the habitat but that aren’t here yet. I’ve scattered loads of orchid (common spot/marsh) seed in particular in the hay meadow, plus common vetch but most effort has gone into other habitats on the farm. The new hay meadows have had some seed from the old hay meadow but its moved naturally and so I didn’t really need to do that.

13: Is the meadow flat, or sloping, and is it hillside/valley bottom?

Our land is one side of a small river valley, so it’s all sloping to some extent, but the meadows and arable form to top row of fields that are flat enough to be mown/ploughed

14: Do you know roughly what the soil ph is?

We haven’t done soil tests but it’s slightly acidic

15: Have you ever had a botanical survey carried on the meadow, and if not would you be interested in having this done?

In theory I could do it myself – but have never actually gone out with a pen and paper and made proper lists! I do record new notable things when I see them and more or less know what’s where!

16: Would you be happy for your meadow, and the above data to feature in the Gallery section of the CMG website?

Yes

17: Would you be interested in help from a contractor in managing any aspect of meadow maintenance, and if so what help would be useful to you?

We use neighbouring contractors already

 

Added to the gallery 05/2017.

If you own or manage a meadow in Carmarthenshire which you would like to add to these gallery pages, please email Julian Wormald, the current website administrator, at

website@carmarthenshiremeadows.com

Thanks for reading.