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Bickley Hall Farm – a modern farmland meadow

Meadow at Bickley Hall FarmMeadow at Bickley Hall Farm

At Bickley Hall Farm, Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s headquarters, we manage our own wildlife-friendly farm.

A Natural England Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme, designed to provide financial incentives for land managers to look after the environment, enables us to create a bespoke set of options across the farm. Therefore, all farming activities are carried out with wildlife in mind. Working with a grazing partner, our 86 hectare (210 acre) organic farm is home to a herd of cattle, as well as an annual crop of spring sown oats. But it’s our species rich hay meadow that allows us to make traditional winter forage for the cattle, whilst maintaining an important area for wildlife.

With little more than a light scattering of organic farmyard manure each year, the meadow’s soil has relatively low nutrient levels. This allows flowering species typically associated with traditionally managed hay meadows to thrive.

By cutting our meadow at the end of July each year, we give late flowering meadow plants a chance to grow, flower and set seed. This provides pollinators with food throughout the spring and summer and gives ground nesting birds the best chance possible of rearing their chicks. We leave 10% of our meadows uncut to provide a refuge for invertebrates.

After cutting, the meadows are grazed by cattle which helps prevent dominant, competitive plant species taking over. The action of hooves churning up the soil also aids germination.

This year, we want to create a new 12-acre hay meadow at Bickley. After taking a cut of grass off one of our fields, we need to plough and harrow, before sowing locally sourced wildflower seed.