Kingerby Beck Meadows

A Brief History by:

Reserve Warden Jean Dodds

These meadows are truly a peoples’ reserve, as they were brought to the notice of the Trust by local residents in the mid 1980s . It was feared that the cowslip fields would be ploughed up.

In May and June 1987 a botanical survey of the three meadows at the southern end of the green lane was carried out. A botanical gem was identified because of the great diversity of species, and these three fields were designated an SSSI.

Mr. Woodforth, the owner of the fields, wished to sell them to an owner who would preserve them, and they were bought by the Trust in 1989.

From 1990-1992 work parties coppiced the most straggly hedge, and in 1991 dug a pond at the western edge of the middle meadow as well as planting oak and ash saplings in the gaps in the east/west hedges.

The western roadside field was bought in 1994, and a pond was mechanically dug in the north west corner of the SSSI. The newly bought field had been farmed for silage, and a curlew had nested in it. It is now known as the John Tolliday meadow as a tribute to a valued member of the Market Rasen Group of the Trust.

Between 1995 and 1997 the western hedge of the green lane was layered, voluntarily, by local farmer, Bob Winter. Ash standards were left.

Two fields, one north and the other south of Mill Farm were bought by the trust with funding from the National-Lottery Heritage Fund in 1998. In the following spring a single Marsh Orchid appeared in the John Tolliday meadow.

In 2006 the first orchid appeared in the meadow south of Mill Farm, and the Trust bought the small field to the east of the green lane.

The southern hedge of the John Tolliday meadow was layered in 2008.

Throughout this time the beck, which forms the southern boundary of the reserve, has been dredged and the banks cut back by the relevant government agency.


Management

The diverse flora, and resultant animals, found on the reserve are a direct result of their management as traditional hay meadows. This management is totally in the hands of the grazier. The Trust is extremely fortunate in having Howard Turnbull as the grazier who is meticulous about maintaining the habitat. The management is the antithesis of intensive farming, and not commercially viable, however it provides a habitat which is beyond price.

No fertiliser is used at all, which means that the soil is very low in nutrients, so the hay crop is thin, but wild flowers abound, and there are many varieties of grass. The meadows are cut for hay after July 15, which allows the flowers to set seed. The aftermath, (the vegetation which grows after the hay is cut) is grazed by sheep in the Autumn. They are put on once the grass is grown and taken off when the vegetation is cropped short, or when the ground becomes so wet that there is a risk of poaching. The sheep are allowed mineral licks, but no supplementary feeding, which would be a form of fertiliser.

Our grazier is very careful about taking the hay, and especially about leading off the hay bales. He takes extra time to ensure the vehicles do not leave tracks. It is a pity that YEB was not so careful when they replaced the electricity poles.

This management ensures that the nutrient levels remain low, and fall in the fields that were bought later. The fall in the nutrients in the John Tolliday meadow has had the most noticeable effect. Flower seeds that were dormant in the soil have germinated and there are over 1000 orchid spikes since 2010. The meadow south of Mill Farm is taking longer to reach low nutrient levels.

The two eastern roadside fields are being hard grazed. This is being carried out to control the pernicious weeds, particularly creeping thistle, nettles and lately spear thistles.

Once the weeds are minimal they too will be managed as hay meadows.

Creeping thistle, which can be controlled by herbicide, and hogweed, are ongoing problems in the hay meadows.


A Journey Through the Seasons

Spring
The herald of spring is bird song; Skylarks high in the sky above the adjacent farm land, maybe a Curlew, Yellowhammers and later Black Cap, Chiff Chaff and perhaps Willow Warbler and Whitethroats in May.
Frog spawn can usually be seen in the smaller pond, Bumble Bees are on the wing, as are Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies. Orange Tips are flying in May.
About mid March the Blackthorn may be in flower and there is always a carpet of Sweet Violets at the northern end of the green lane. The first grass to grow is where fungi have released nutrients into the soil and “fairy rings” are easily seen in the hay meadows. At the beginning of April the leaves of Adders Tongue Fern can be seen throughout the meadows, and by the end of the month the Cowslips are at their best in the SSSIs, growing along the ridges of the ridge and furrow. From the middle of May, Orchids, Pignut, Heath Violets and Hawthorn are in flower.


Summer
By the end of May the Hay Rattle and Fairy Flax are in flower as well as Buttercups and the early grasses. Common Blue and Small Copper butterflies are flying as well as moths.
Swallows hunt over the meadows and Buzzards may be seen. Horse Flies appear in June, so bare skin is not a good idea. The first Meadow Browns and Ringlets are easily seen in warm, still weather. They particularly like to feed on Knapweed. There are 6 spot Burnet Moths too. The south western corner of the first SSSI is favoured by butterflies. Hogweed shows its unwelcome head, but Ladies Bedstraw and vetches are welcome.
Care needs to be taken when visiting from mid June until the hay is cut, as tracks are easily made in the sward, especially when it is wet. Sticking to the field margins is the best idea. Once the hay is cut, any time from mid July, invertebrates congregate on the uncut field margins and on the beck banks.
The smell of the new hay is wonderful, if you are lucky enough to visit just after the grass has been cut. The mown fields reveal the vole holes and their runs.


Autumn
The ripening haws and hips make the hedges glow. Fungi abound if the conditions are right. A glimpse of Bull Finches and Tree Sparrows may be had. By October there may be Redwings, and Fieldfares are usually about by November. You may be lucky enough to see Grey Partridges or even a Brown Hare. The sheep are grazing the aftermath.


Winter
Particularly in winter the reserve is a haven of peace. Winter visitors are the main bird life. Looking beyond the reserve boundaries you can see how far the birds have to fly to find berry bearing hedges and long grass for shelter.
If it is wet, water stands in furrows and ruts. If it is a drier time you may be able to see fossils on the bed of the beck, once the bank vegetation has died back.
If there is snow you may try to identify the tracks of mammals and birds. The wing marks of a Pheasant as it takes off can be very clear.
Enjoy the Ash trees along the green lane, as they may not be there in a few years time.