Work to restore meadow begins

Windmill Hill by Wendy Carter

Almost two kilometres of fencing is being replaced on a Vale of Evesham nature reserve in order to allow livestock to graze.

Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s Windmill Hill is an important grassland with scarce wildflowers like twayblade, fairy flax and wild liquorice growing there. The particular mix of plants exists because of the limestone that underlies the reserve – an unusual habitat in Worcestershire.

The reserve is too steep to be mown by machinery in the summer once the flowers have dropped their seeds so livestock are brought in. Grazing keeps down the more vigorous grasses and allows the delicate wildflowers to grow.

David Molloy, Conservation Officer responsible for the nature reserve, explains “Grazing has taken place here for centuries and it is essential to ensure the survival of these scarce plants but much of the fencing is currently in a state of disrepair; the site will only be attractive to a local grazier if the stock fencing is secure.

“In order to install the fence, visitors may notice that we will be removing some vegetation and scrub that has grown over the current fence. This will mostly be at the bottom of the hill and consists mainly of hawthorn and young ash.

“Whilst scrub can be a valuable habitat for many species, its removal in this case will not only allow us to install the fence but it will also remove shading from parts of the grassland, which will allow the plants there to reclaim their territory.

“We expect the scrub to recover within two to three years and there are other patches elsewhere on the nature reserve.”

Common blue butterfly by Vicky Nall

Common blue butterfly by Vicky Nall

The work, which has been funded by Severn Waste Services through the Landfill Community Fund, will take place in two stages.  The first stage will remove the scrub and the second to install the fence. 

The site, near North Littleton, is just 15 acres in size but is one of the best remaining limestone grasslands in the county.

The wildflowers on the nature reserve support a diverse range of insects with butterflies being the most obvious. From spring through summer marbled whites are joined by common blues, small skippers and small heaths.