One of our aims from the very start was to improve the diversity of the 4 acre camping meadow. It has established itself from scratch over the past ten years with little input from us and because of this it is full of plants that have found their way in from the surrounding local countryside. I spotted a new patch of tall daisies this summer in the corner by the hedge and was almost embarrassingly excited.
Following a visit from the extremely helpful Nick Gibbons of Suffolk Wildlife Trust we now know that we have a range of grasses, flowering clovers, wild roses and some rarer herbs such as Yarrow and Agrimony. We also have a rather invasive grass called Calamagrostis, which is almost impossible to get rid of, and plenty of Ragwort and thistles.
But, as my Grandmother was very fond of saying, where there is a will there is a way. By cutting the camping pitch circles on top of the beautiful but ever spreading Calamagrostis we can hopefully keep it under control. As we are discovering nature is also incredibly clever at keeping things in order and thanks to some very hungry Cinnabar moth caterpillars we should have the Ragwort in a nice natural balance within a few years. As for the thistles, well the butterflies and bees love them and selective spraying and hand pulling will keep them in check.
The plan is to cut the entire meadow two or three times a year. Once at the end of our season in September when the meadow flowers have seeded. Then again a couple of times before we open at Easter to encourage growth. We will also vary where we cut our pitches and paths where possible to give the ground a well deserved break.
Natural meadows have a wide range of flowering plants within them but I have learnt over the past year that sometimes we can be misled by images of brightly coloured meadows brimming with flowers. Having visited the beautiful natural meadow at Pensthorpe Natural Park I was encouraged to see a space that we could aspire to. The sea of grasses was dotted with small flowers but otherwise did not look too different to the meadow we have come to love.
This spring we have planted a new selection of wild flower plants in a variety of ways and hopefully we will be able to persuade them to stay! We have scattered seed but so far this seems the least successful method. We have also grown carpets of seedlings and have planted these into areas of the meadow that we have kept short. I also have plug plants growing on standby to plant in the Autumn. I am keeping my fingers crossed that some of the seedlings will take so that both our meadow wildlife and our campers will start to reap the benefits of the improved diversity of flowers in the next few years!