Meadow Life

Lanlay is a beautiful site that is comprised of 23acres of hay meadows and rhos pasture (rhos is Welsh for wet, so essentially a wet wild flower meadow). It has a mosaic of different habitats throughout the site so is great for biodiversity and supports a huge variety of wildlife.

97% of our wild flower meadows have steadily declined on a continuous basis since the 1930’s, which consequently has had detrimental impacts on the plant species and the wild life that depend on them. It is therefore vitally important that we preserve sites like Lanlay for the benefit of wild life and for future generations to enjoy.

Lanlay Meadows

Lanlay Meadows

Work on the meadow varies seasonally; a large part of the summer work includes the removal of an invasive species called Himalayan balsam. It is a particularly vigorous species of plant that if isn’t kept in check will take over, drowning out native wild flowers and reducing the diversity of the meadow. With the help of some working holidays, we have been pulling and crushing it in an attempt to control the spread of this species. It is important to crush the stems or it will re-root itself and keep growing. Even local dog walkers have started to get involved – you can often see small piles dotted along the sides of the paths that they have pulled whilst out on their walk.

Pull and crush.

Pull and crush.

I have also spent time monitoring the butterflies on the meadow. Each week I walk a set transect and record all of the species along the way. This information will be fed back to a national butterfly records scheme that is monitoring the fluctuations in butterfly populations throughout the UK. Here are some pictures of a few of the butterflies I encountered.

Some of this summers spots; Green Veined White, Common Blue, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood.

Some of this summers spots; Green Veined White, Common Blue, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood.

Winter is busier in terms of habitat management and I will soon be starting to cut back scrub and bramble that has encroached onto the meadow and doing lots of hedge laying.

Hedge laying in progress, earlier this year.

Hedge laying in progress, earlier this year. Want to get involved this season? See below.

If anyone is interested in getting involved, then please get in touch via the Brecon Beacons and Monmouthshire National Trust website or Facebook page.

Jess – Conservation Ranger

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Before things grow

One last blog article from Beth before moving on to her new job in Cornwall.

Hedgelaying at Lanlay: a race against time

Some of the management work we do on our sites has strict rules about what time of year it has to be completed.

Hedgelaying is a winter job, with the cut off date at the end of March. This is to ensure that our work does not disturb nesting birds and also to minimise damaging the trees health, as in winter the sap is down and they are less prone to infection.

Our site at Lanlay Meadows is in a Glastir agricultural stewardship scheme, and in order to get the payments to fund our conservation work, we have to complete certain work by certain deadlines. There was a very long section of hedge that had to be laid this winter, so we had a race against time to get it done before the cut off date.

It was a real team effort with lots of staff pulling together as well as many local volunteers.

Getting stuck in.  Hedges always seem to be full of prickly stuff.

Getting stuck in. Hedges always seem to be full of prickly stuff.

Hedgelaying is a traditional form of management across the UK, and, before fencing became cheaper and quicker, laid hedges were a common sight in the countryside. As well as being effective barriers against livestock, traditionally managed hedges are great for wildlife, providing crucial nesting habitat, food and shelter for many species, especially small birds. As you would expect there are many different regional styles of hedgelaying that have developed, depending on the livestock that has been historically farmed in the area .

We used the traditional Brecon style for our hedge at Lanlay. This style gives a dense hedge designed to keep sheep in, or out! The basic method is to firstly clear out any branches that are too small, too big, dead or growing outwards from the line you want your hedge, leaving just the stems you want to lay, known as pleachers. Each pleacher is then cut at the base with a billhook or saw, until it is attached by about a quarter of the original thickness and bent over. The laid pleachers are then woven around stakes driven into the ground at metre intervals to make a tight fence. The finishing touch is to use straight poles as binders around the top of the stakes to pin down any braches that might want to spring up.

All being well, the laid hedge will start producing shoots this spring, and in about 10 years time, it will be ready to be laid again.

Thank-you to all those that helped lay the hedge.

Thank-you to all those that helped lay the hedge.

Thank you to everyone who helped out on this project, we couldn’t have done it by the deadline without you!

Beth

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Signs of Spring

What with the new lambs and fine weather we’ve been having over the last couple of weeks it really feels like spring has arrived. Today whilst walking in the Tarrell Valley near Libanus I saw some swallows and heard a cuckoo, both for the first time this year.

The National Trust is responsible for looking after a number of sites across the Brecon Beacons and Monmouthshire, not only by maintaining public access, but also through our nature conservation work.

April 01

One of the habitats that is a key feature of Lanlay Meadows, in the Vale of Glamorgan, is grassland. The meadows are just beginning to come to life. The wildflowers that grow here attract a whole host of insects throughout the spring and summer- bees, butterflies and moths. Birds are nesting in the hedgerows and the mature trees are coming into leaf.

Some of the meadows are classified as neutral grassland. As spring moves into summer, look out for all sorts of hay meadow species like knapweed, Devils bit scabious and stitchworts and hawkbits as well as wood anemone and marsh marigoldsaround the field edges. In the rhos pasture (also called marshy grassland) you will find yellow flag iris and a variety of different rushes.

Cuckoo Flower

Cuckoo Flower

Now is the time of year when we see the results of all our management throughout the year. Every summer, we put a lot of effort into pulling Himalayan balsam, an invasive species that grows very quickly and colonises large areas of the meadow, especially close to the water courses, and out competes the native species. At the end of the summer the meadows are cut then ideally lightly grazed with cattle or ponies. The livestock are then removed in the winter when the ground is very wet to avoid the soil and vegetation getting poached and damaged. Over the winter is when we carry out management of the scrub to stop it encroaching onto the meadows, out competing the grasses and flowers and drying out the soil. This mainly involves cutting brambles and blackthorn on the field edges. All this work means that each spring and summer the rich biodiversity of the meadows is maintained for the value of wildlife and visitors.

We are always interested in any biodiversity records or information about all our sites, so if you are a keen recorder do let us know about anything you see!

Beth
Community Engagement Ranger