According to this story on the BBC today traditional hay meadows are in decline. That's a very sad thing indeed because there is nothing so lovely as a hay meadow in full bloom in June.
We have two hay meadows (pictured above and in my page banner) and I'm impossibly proud of them. They are magnificent fields to visit - the high point (literally) of our farm and of our usual walk around it.
Our current agri-environmental scheme supports our care of them as meadows. The management encourages the proliferation of species of wild flowers and an enormous variety of grasses. We have yellow rattle, a parasitic flower which inhibits grass growth; plantains, which turn black in the hay/haylage and are picked out as delicacies by the sheep; timothy, fescues, bent grasses; buttercups galore, red and white clover and sorrel which puts up pretty red flower spikes in the summer.
Mum was once offered a paltry sum for her 'weedy patch' by a property developer who wanted to buy the empty house next to the hay meadows. He, no doubt, realised he could add those eight acres or so to that nice big house and sell it at an enormous profit as an 'equestrian' property. He was too fool to realise the enormity of his insult both to the 'weedy patch' and my mother's intelligence.
On Sunday it was full of butterflies - meadow browns, gatekeepers and ringlets - and on another recent walk we were nearly mown down by a sparrow hawk.
Managing the two meadows comes with rules: No fertilizer, no harrowing after March (we rarely harrow anyway), the dew pond must be left to regenerate (and we try to remember not to drive the tractor into it!), we cannot mow for hay or haylage before July 15th and the field must remain closed for six weeks in the summer. All this is to protect the flora and fauna in the fields and we respect those rules. Perhaps it wouldn't be economical for a big, intensive farm, but it suits our little enterprise and the ponies and sheep think the resulting winter fodder is great.