March saw a sudden and dramatic improvement in weather conditions as the jet stream moved away north to its more usual position. Some very unseasonal and pleasant sunny spells helped to start drying out the riverside pastures which enabled access by machinery back on the farmland in order to erect new fencing ahead of the new grazing season.
Our friends from the Acton and Waldingfield cub-scout group came to plant hedgerow saplings, clear pollarded willow material and carry out the annual bird box clean ahead of the new breeding season. The saplings which included hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple and crab apple were donated by the Woodland Trust which offers trees to any organisation prepared to plant them. These were planted alongside a recently laid hedge and in time should help to add diversity to the hedge. This was originally single species hawthorn planted by the Great Eastern railway.
The wooden bird boxes not only require cleaning but some have to be removed each year for repair or replacement. All the boxes are constructed by members of the group from materials kindly donated by Ridgeon’s in Sudbury. The cub-scouts’ time goes towards earning their naturalist and world conservation badges and they were able to do this on a very pleasant sunny Sunday morning.
Now that another grazing season is upon us it is worth remembering that farm animals have grazed the riverside pastures for centuries. There are those urban souls who think that they have no place on this farmland but it would be quite impractical to treat the whole riverside like Friars Meadow and mow it, and its wildlife, flat every week.
Please respect the cattle and leave them to get on with their job so that come October their ‘selective mowing’ or munching through the summer months will leave the sward nice and short. In the meantime we shall have enjoyed spectacular shows of buttercups and wind-swayed stands of meadow barley. Indeed, it is all about traditional management and the wildlife it supports, albeit within the framework of the increasingly popular and busy Sudbury Common Land.