The Marches Meadow Group

The Wildflower meadows, Pastures and Verges project has enabled local residents with meadows to form the Marches Meadow Group.  Through networking and training events members share their experiences and knowledge about wildflower meadows, hay-making, grazing, local contractors and using small machinery.

Follow this link to download 2017 Marches Meadow Group events programme

Annual membership costs £15 and the benefits are listed below:

  • A survey of the plants in your meadow(s)
  • Advice on the management of your meadow(s), including livestock
  • Access to the small-scale hay making machinery owned by the MMG
  • Help from other members of MMG (in return for your help!)
  • Opportunity to enhance the diversity of your meadows through green hay or seed collection
  • Co-ordination of green hay donor and recipient sites
  • Access to markets for hay meadow products – buying or selling
  • Site visits to other meadow managers’ meadows
  • Social occasions – meet with other meadow managers

If you own or manage grassland in or close to the Scheme area and are interested in joining the Marches Meadow Group please contact JP Brayford on 01938 561741 or email john.brayford@shropshire.gov.uk.

Download the Marches Meadow Group membership form here.

Benefits from a smallholder’s perspective (and member):

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Roy Carter harrowing the hay field prior to strewing the green hay

“I recognise that we are very fortunate to live in the Shropshire Hills AONB, to have enough land to enable us to keep our hobby flock of 30 breeding Hebridean ewes and to have a local contractor who is willing to make our hay and bale it in small bales. We have about 6 ha (15 acres) of grassland running up to the heathland edge of The Stiperstones National Nature Reserve; some of the pasture is steeply sloping but about 1.7 ha (4 acres) is sufficiently gently sloping to allow easy hay-making. Those meadows are relatively species-rich and more than 100 plant species have been recorded on our land as a whole. Former owners had entered the Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) agri-environment scheme and in 2013 we entered all of our land into the Entry Level of Environmental Stewardship and the hay meadows into the Higher Level.

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The green hay after unrolling the round bales – unrolling was helped by the slope

So what does the Wildflower Meadows, Pasture and Verges Project have to offer for us? As keen conservationists we would like our meadows to be even more species-rich; the nearby Pennerley Meadows SSSI has about 15 species that we have not (yet) found in our meadows, including Betony, Common Spotted Orchid, Common Twayblade, Cowslip, Fairy Flax and Greater Butterfly Orchid. A similar number of species are abundant in Pennerley Meadows but rare in our meadows. We had previously discussed a green hay project with Simon Cooter, site manager for Pennerley Meadows, and we were awarded a grant by the Stiperstones & Corndon Hill Country Landscape Partnership Scheme to cover about the half the costs.

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Strewing green hay – the innovative welly boot method…

Our hay-making contractors Roy and Andrew Carter were immensely helpful, especially at a particularly busy time of year. They agreed to cut the green hay and suggested the best way to transport it was as large round bales which could then be unrolled across our meadows. Having made and baled our hay, Roy harrowed the meadows to ensure there was some bare soil for the seeds to fall onto. The appointed day for the green hay cutting was particularly hot and Roy and Andrew worked through the evening and delivered the bales to our meadows at 11.30 p.m.! They unrolled the bales so that the green hay did not overheat, which would have reduced seed viability.

stewing green hay (low res)

…and the more conventional hand strewing method!

We were up at 5 a.m. the next day and started to spread the hay; it was soon apparent that we had far more hay than would be needed for the thin layer required on the planned two meadows, so we were able to include a third bringing the total to 1.25 ha. Later, after the seeds should have been shed, we introduced our sheep to trample the seeds into the soil. Now we eagerly await this summer to see whether any new species appear in our meadows.

However, there is far more that the Wildflower Meadows, Pasture and Verges Project could offer all meadow owners in the area. Not all meadow owners have the stock to graze their fields and they may have no outlet for their hay; others may have the stock but insufficient suitable land to make their own hay. Perhaps the Project could put these two groups in contact, so that meadow hay can be used locally. Of course, there is the need to make the hay, but for those without an existing contractor willing to cut small meadows and bale into small bales we have now identified a contractor who will utilise the equipment bought through the Project to provide such a service.

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The green hay one day after strewing

For meadow owners fortunate enough to have particularly species-rich meadows there is the possibility of selling green hay to increase the diversity of other meadows. This would be particularly effective if existing but isolated meadows could be linked by new meadows, allowing at least more mobile species (such as insects) to move between fields. There may be other livestock-related products such as wool and meat that we can trade between members of the group or market to a wider customer-base.

The Project can also provide the means of communication between meadow owners through e-mail lists, social meetings and a searchable database of owners and the products they can supply. Through co-operation we could achieve a lasting legacy with a vibrant group owning the hay-making machinery; there would need to be a small supplementary charge for hay-making to ensure funds were available to maintain and eventually replace the hay making equipment, but hopefully that would be recouped by the sale of the products.

It’s down to all of us to establish the meadow-owners group and ensure it is on a firm footing while we have the backing of the Stiperstones and Corndon Hill Country Landscape Partnership Scheme. We would like to thank Natural England for allowing use of green hay from Pennerley Meadows and the Stiperstones and Corndon Hill Country Landscape Partnership Scheme for the grant towards the costs of the project.”

We are always looking for new members, so for more information please contact JP Brayford.