Rhead’s Meadow: Newsletter August 2020

We are approaching a busy period for the development of the Meadows and I write to update you regarding our plans and to ask for your assistance. Please see the latest plan.

Wildflower & Grassland Meadows

The grass has been cut in both meadows and taken as hay which will now enable us to prepare the first of our wildflower meadows. In order to do this, the ground will be deep ploughed to try to reduce its fertility and thus reduce its attractiveness to plants such as thistle, dock, nettles and ragwort which otherwise would dominate. Most wildflowers live in infertile soils. If land has been agriculturally improved using fertilisers, it may be too rich for wildflowers to be sown straight away. Deep ploughing, mixing the nutrient rich topsoil with poorer subsoil, is a well-proven method of reducing the soil nutrients to help wildflowers germinate. This work will be carried out on the western side of the north meadow during the next few weeks, followed by harrowing and seed sowing. Thereafter the area will need to be mown and hay taken annually so that each year the proportion of nutrient left in the soil reduces. We will learn from this experience and decide whether to repeat the exercise in other areas in following years.

To complement the wildflower meadows, we will also look to develop some areas of long grass meadow.

Shrub boundaries

During the months of October & November, weather permitting, we hope to start planting the shrub boundaries behind the properties on Blackfirs Lane. How much of this we achieve will depend upon availability of resources – both in terms of plants and man-hours. We expect to start with the western boundary in the north meadow – between the rear of the houses and the edge of the newly established wildflower meadow. The objective will be to screen the rear gardens of those properties and we may well include some smaller trees to add interest and assist with screening. We will ensure that this planting is not intrusive, or likely to become intrusive, for our neighbours by avoiding larger trees unless specifically requested and agreed. We are conscious that this section, like the western boundary in the south meadow, needs to be planted sensitively and we would welcome input from those neighbours. We already have an offer of a contribution from one of our neighbours and if any others of our neighbours feel inclined to make similar offers, whether it be cash, plant stock or simply man-hours, we would be very pleased to hear from you.

Amenity Grassland

There are various areas which need to be seeded with amenity type grass seed to withstand more regular mowing and maintenance. These areas include the 3-metre-wide strips each side of the paths, the pathway enclosed triangular sections in both the south and the north meadows, the spiral mound and the smaller planting mounds beside the paths.

Hedges

The hedge planted alongside Rhead’s Lane has recovered remarkably well after the unseasonal frost closely followed by a mini drought. The plan is to identity mark the plastic spirals of those plants which didn’t make it and replace these plants this autumn.  We also propose to extend the hedge planting around the new boundary fence adjacent to Blackfirs Farm. The area enclosed by this fence and the farm boundary will become a cycleway between the Somerford Gate estate, to be developed by Bellway, and Rhead’s Lane. This, and most of the northern boundary, will be left for the time being until planning permission has been finalised for the estate and we are able to further discuss lay-out with the builders.

The hedge dividing the two meadows maybe trimmed to encourage lower growth, but the general appearance will remain rural. The two large gaps in the hedge will be left to allow machinery access between the meadows but we will aim to fill in other gaps.

Orchard

We would very much like to start planting the orchard this autumn if we have sufficient resources and, once again, offers of assistance, both in terms of fruit trees and man-hours, would be very much appreciated. We are especially looking for apple and damson trees, but any species/variety would be welcomed.

Woodland walk

We propose to create a woodland walk between the trees to join up all three access points along the northern and eastern perimeters of the Meadows. This would mirror the woodland walk on the western boundary of the Back Lane Village Green & Sports Fields thus creating an almost seamless path from Back Lane to Blackfirs Lane.

Furniture

We need to consider the provision of some furniture, such as benches and noticeboards. We currently favour a rustic appearance which we hope will provide a consistent style for the whole of the park. Initially we would like to provide maybe two or three benches and we would welcome offers to donate these with a plaque marking the donation or perhaps as a memorial to a passed loved-one. If you would like to discuss options with us, please contact our clerk, Julie Mason, or any parish councillor.

Maintenance vehicle access

The hard-standing area by the field gate entrance will be covered with soil and sown with suitable grass seed once the deep-ploughing work has been completed. The aim is to achieve a green but reasonably solid base. We will also look to screening this area, probably by a hedge at some future time, to separate it as a private area for work. This gate is not a public entrance and will remain locked.

Rhead’s Lane

Rheads Meadow bridle gateSome of you will have noted that we have recently filled some of the potholes on the lane, it being   in the ownership of and therefore the responsibility of the Parish Council. We have also removed the remains of the old and rusted barbed wire fencing – the new fence having been set back quite some way. During November we expect to take delivery of the two gates for the access points from the Meadows onto Rhead’s Lane. They are 2 Way bridle gates, 1600mm wide, which are designed for users of all descriptions, including mobility vehicles.

If you are able to help in any way, with cash donations for general or specific items, with shrubs/plants/trees, or to join our list of helpers, please get in touch with Julie (Mason) at jmasonparishclerk@gmail.com

We look forward to hearing from you.

Geoff Bell
Chairman