Following agreement at the Rocklands Parish Council meeting, a committee of volunteers has been established to manage the meadow at Chapel Green.
Here they can be seen laying sleepers along the edge of the green.
A meadow is a particular type of grassland, traditionally mown for hay, which requires a grazing-free period in spring and summer and regular grazing through the remainder of the year.
This cycle was historically a critical farming technique as the hay provided winter fodder for farm animals. Importantly, the temporary suspension of grazing allowed plants to complete a full cycle of flowering and seed-set and for insects to lay eggs, something not seen on pasture that is grazed all year round. Over decades a rich diversity of local, native flowering plants become established, to the point where late spring and early summer give rise to spectacular displays of colour, as successive species flower.
Whilst grasses such as Cocks-foot, Yorkshire-fog and Timothy may form the bulk of the plant matter in our meadow it is the myriad of native flowering plants that are the crowning glory. The Rocklands Wild Flower Meadow includes nearly fifty different species of flowering plants, all typical of Norfolk meadows, including common spotted orchid and bee orchid.
This floral diversity supports a complementary wealth of native fauna, especially pollinating insects. For example, eighteen species of butterfly are present, including established colonies of Common Blue, Essex Skipper and Six-spot Burnet. These insects play a vital role in natural ecosystems, as well as pollinating many crops, and yet have seen catastrophic decline in recent years.
Meadows have become extremely rare in Britain, with over 97% lost, primarily to conversion to arable crop production, such that even the modest extent of the Rocklands meadow marks it out as being of significant importance.
A wild flower meadow requires continuous management, to simulate traditional farming and to thus sustain the wealth of floral diversity and the integrity of this rare and important ecosystem. This means a programme of regular mowing throughout the year (in the absence of a flock of sheep), pausing for the spring and summer period and the removal of inappropriate species, such as non-native exotics and tree seedlings. Removing all mowing debris removes nutrients from the soil, inhibiting excessive grass growth and allowing flowering plants to thrive.