The effects of dry conditions during the spring of 2011 were all to clear to see with stressed arable crops and a lack of grass for livestock. This was certainly the case on the Sudbury riverside. Until April it looked as if the 2011 weather pattern might repeat itself with February being the driest on record.
Although the effects of the drought continue to be felt by the burgeoning human population, most notably through the hosepipe ban, the record rainfall during April means that, unlike last year, the grass will grow well for the returning cattle. The excessive rainfall, however, led to very high river water levels and some water birds, such as coots, moorhens and kingfishers had their nests washed out. Fortunately there is still plenty of time for them to start afresh. On the drier grassland opposite Friars Meadow the number of flowering orchids reduced quite dramatically in 2011 although curiously the wetland species had a bonanza season. It will be interesting to see how these fair over the next few months.
With the livestock returning for another grazing season it is timely to remind everyone to keep away from the cattle and to keep dogs under control. Occasionally unfortunate incidents occur through thoughtlessness. Please remember that the Sudbury Common Lands is a farmed landscape and not a public park. For those who consider that the cattle should not be there it is worth pointing out that grazing records for the land go back to the late twelfth century so the charity is continuing a very ancient tradition indeed. Hopefully the Volunteer Rangers will once again be in evidence through the season to talk to people about the Sudbury Common Lands and the importance of grazing in the maintenance of this priceless asset to Sudbury.
During the spring months education is an important feature of the Charity’s programme. All of Sudbury’s school children should learn about their town and this includes the historic meadows. Over the years several thousand children have done a spot of pond dipping, examined insects close at hand or taken a look at some of the plants and animals associated with the riverside. Hopefully some small aspect of their time spent in this unique environment will remain with them for many years to come.