We live and work in a cottage called 'Dene Edge' in Stonesfield, a village in West Oxfordshire, with the field behind our home and studio being called 'The Dene'. We have recently leased 'The Dene' from the Blenheim Estate for an initial period of 5 years with the aim of restoring the biodiversity of this 1.4 acres of grassland, to bring back the wild flowers, butterflies, bees and other invertebrates. Wild flower meadows are one of the rarest habitats in the UK and we have lost 97% of our wild flower meadows since the 1930s.
Wild flowers grow best in low nutrient soil, so the initial aim is to reduce the enrichment of the soil through grazing in the winter/early spring, and taking a haycut and removing the hay in the summer, followed by aftermath grazing.
There may be seeds in the existing seedbank that will be allowed to flourish by reducing the vigorous grasses, cow parsley and nettles. Additional species will be brought in by using local green hay.
The bottom of the field is marshy and prone to flooding, so may support wetland species such as Bugle, Meadowsweet, Ragged Robin, Meadow Buttercup, Great Burnet and Devils Bit Scabious.
The drier sides of the valley could support some of the calcareous plants seen on Stonesfield Common SSSI such as Birdsfoot Trefoil, Knapweeds, Scabious, Quaking Grass, Wild Thyme, and Salad Burnet. Some unmown and ungrazed edges will be left around the field to provide good habitat for invertebrates, refuge for reptiles and amphibians, and scrub areas for nesting birds.
If you are interested in getting involved or would like to learn more, please contact email@example.com. Follow our wildflower meadow restoration project updates here on the blog, or via our social media accounts on facebook, Instagram and twitter.