Coronation Meadows

coronation_meadowAcross our landscape, we are fortunate that small fragments of wild flower-rich meadows and grasslands still survive. Once the colourful mantle of our green and pleasant land, a staggering 97% of meadows have been lost in the last 75 years.

60 Coronation Meadows to mark the launch

For the launch of the project on 5th June 2013, 60 Coronation Meadows have been identified. Over the next few months, more meadows will be identified.

What is a meadow?

For the Coronation Meadows project, a meadow is any grassland that is maintained by traditional farming practices and allowed to develop over many years, becoming richer and richer with wild flowers over with time

Coronation Meadow – Dunsdon National Nature Reserve

Managed by the same family (the Hoppers) since 1927, and with one of the family still living close to the site, this meadow offers a snapshot of the past showing how the region once appeared – rich in rare and spectacular wildlife and a large enough expanse to spend a whole day in. Dunsdon represents one of the best examples of traditionally managed, wet rush meadow in Britain. The range of wild flowers ensures that there is always something in bloom from early summer right through to the end of September. This supports an equally rich insect fauna: twenty six butterfly species have been recorded, including a very large and nationally important population of marsh fritillary – also marbled white, silver-washed fritillary (occasionally), common blue and purple hairstreak can be seen. Moths are more diverse still and the rather rare narrow bordered bee hawk moth has been recorded in recent years.

Dragonflies and damselflies are frequent with broad-bodied chaser, golden-ringed dragonfly, common darter and banded demoiselle being found around the wetter areas of the Bude Canal. Other easily-overlooked invertebrate groups include Red Data Book picture-wing flies, more than a dozen hoverfly species, and eleven species of snail-killing sciomyzid flies, with many more yet to be recorded.

Over 70 bird species have been recorded at Dunsdon. Breeding birds include grey heron (in a small heronry in the trees just south of the viewing platform), buzzard, sparrowhawk, skylark, song thrush, spotted flycatcher, willow tit, reed bunting, tree pipit, willow warbler, garden warbler and grasshopper warbler. Winter visitors include snipe, short-eared owl and woodcock. Barn owls use the site frequently as a feeding ground, and may be seen roosting in the trees. Mammals present on the site include fox, roe deer and badgers, and the thick hedge banks and scrubby areas also support dormice, feeding on hazel nuts and using honeysuckle as nesting material.

The pasture is grazed with hardy cattle from late summer to early autumn, and is burned – or “swaled” – in the winter months. The swaling removes the dead grass each season, allowing the delicate plants to persist, and the grazing keeps the vigorous grasses in check while maintaining a diverse structure to the sward. Areas of scrub are cut out each year.

There is little formally recorded history for the site, although Dunsdon Farm is recorded in the Domesday Book. However because the site has been farmed by the same family since 1927, the history of land management is continuous and is known. This unbroken management record is invaluable when assessing the effects of management when compared to sites which have suffered neglect.

For Further information:

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