Some of you will have seen, and maybe taken part in, a poll put up on the Next Door website about the Little Green in Ogwell. The poll asked if the Green should be left as it is to allow wild flowers to grow, be mowed regularly as in the past, be mostly mowed but with a few flower areas, or if further discussion is needed. After 85 votes (as at 1st August), the majority (62%) favoured leaving the Green as it is. Read on to find out from Ogwild member Siri White what we would lose if we went back to mowing regularly.
What makes the Little Green so special?
The Little Green lies on a seam of hard limestone rock and, as far as we are aware, has never been ploughed or farmed intensively. For this reason, a rich community of native wildflowers continues to thrive on the Green. However, years of tight mowing has meant the flowers here have seldom been seen, and the more sensitive species, such as orchids and the more delicate herbs, can no longer be found. This in turn means aggressive grasses now dominate the Green and much of the invertebrate life has been lost.
Why manage the Little Green for wild flowers?
Grassland that grows from soils underlain by hard limestone is referred to as limestone, or calcareous, grassland. Where calcareous grassland has not been subjected to intensive farming practices, it is referred as ‘unimproved’ and is one of the most species-rich habitats in the country. Increasingly intensive land management practices, combined with our desire for green spaces to be neat and manicured, have led to the decline of 97% of the UK’s unimproved grassland sites.
The Little Green is surrounded by roads and is therefore less suited to activities such as ball games and community events than the adjacent larger Green. For this reason, in 2019, permission was sought from the
Parish Council to begin to manage the Little Green as a wildflower meadow as a key part of our community response to begin to reverse wildlife decline. Allowing nature to flourish here also recognises that many of us
also see beauty and wonder in wilder spaces.
How will the ‘Little Green’ be managed?
The Little Green will be cut twice a year, in early spring and autumn. On both occasions the cuttings will be collected and removed to prevent any nutrients from returning to the soil (most wildflowers need soil that is low in nutrients).
In summer and early autumn, wildflower seed collected from nearby Orley Common (a limestone grassland site recognised for its species richness) will be spread across the Little Green. This will reintroduce species that would once have grown here, such as yellow rattle, marjoram and thyme, as well as orchids.
Reintroducing yellow rattle to the Little Green is important. Yellow rattle is a semi-parasitic plant that taps into the roots of grasses to boost its own growth. This weakens the grasses and so makes space for wildflowers.
In time, this combination of actions will restore the wildflower richness of the site, so that grasses will no longer dominate. The fragrant and stunning qualities of species-rich limestone grassland will return and with it so will many species of butterfly, moths and other invertebrate life. The late summer chirrup of grasshoppers and crickets will again be heard here.
A network of pathways will continue to be mown across the Little Green, providing pleasant walking to the recently restored bench as well as good access from which the wildflowers, buzzing insect life and the surrounding spectacular views can be enjoyed.
Taking action for nature
The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and nature is in crisis. At a time when we recognise how important our connection with nature is, not only for our health, but also for our well-being, having ready access to a site rich in wildlife within our parish is very precious. Community projects such as this demonstrate how we can take action to begin to reverse nature’s decline.
For photos of the wild flowers appearing on the Little Green visit:
Last modified: 9th August 2020