Why do we mow the grassland?

Emma Bradshaw

250-acres of nature reserve takes a bit of looking after throughout the year. It's around this time that the grassland needs mowing, and Brockholes Reserve Officer, Lorna Bennett, explains why.

Task: Commence mowing our botanically poor grasslands alongside the River Ribble.

We mow these areas of former agricultural grassland in order to comply with the Stewardship scheme that we are registered in, but additionally we remove the arisings (i.e. the cut grass) for two reasons.

Firstly, wherever possible (i.e. where weather permits) we will dry and turn the grass, then bale it as hay to feed our cattle in winter.

Secondly, even if the grass is too wet to use as hay, we will remove it so that over the course of many years we gradually deplete the nutrient richness of the soils in these fields.

Soil Nutrients

By depleting the soil nutrients we will reduce the vigour and growth of the grasses, which means that when we sow wildflower seeds into the fields then the wildflowers will be able to compete with the grasses. Gradually, with patience, we will improve the botanical diversity of the grasslands and they will start to resemble wildflower meadows.   

Machinery 

This year all our mowing will be undertaken using the large tractor and mower that we bought with funding from Biffa and LEF as part of last year’s ‘Linking Grasslands’ project. 

Since our old baler kept breaking in recent years, we are also going to borrow and trial using a different baler from elsewhere within the Lancashire Wildlife Trust.

To start improving the botanical composition of the fields, we have already been sowing yellow rattle seed into mole hills (this wildflower semi-parasitizes grasses and takes some of their nutrients for its own growth) and we will sow additional wildflower seeds this year and in subsequent years.

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