I am Robbie Breadon one of the directors of Common Ground N.I. I’m pleased to be writing for the Hay Heads blog. This is the diary of the emergent collaboration between Magnificent Meadows and Common Ground.
We are into re-wilding the farm where the project is based and regenerating wildflower meadows will certainly do that. We’re also into reconnecting people and nature within a reciprocal relationship and we are excited by the potential of achieving that by working with Eva and Giles.
22 September 2016 Magnificent Meadows workshop at Fermanagh House, Enniskillen. The room buzzing with interested people. Giles Knight stresses that Fermanagh is a very special place in terms of habitat variety and biodiversity . Fermanagh is the unrecognized ecological gem within both Ireland and the U.K. I’m excited by this enthusiastic affirmation of the area where we I’m living. Yet Giles warns against complacency, the place is under threat from local and international factors. After 50 years of environmental changes our wildflower meadows are disappearing rapidly. This is a sobering if not alarming thought.
Magnificent Meadows works with farmers and landowners who wish to learn traditional meadow management techniques. Eva Fernanadez picks up the thread to detail how to establish a wildflower meadow. This means only cutting the meadow once a year – ideally at the end of the summer season. This could be by making hay or grazing the field(s). Removing biomass annually whilst not spreading slurry or fertilizer reduces the soil nutrient levels. If this is repeated for a few years then wildflowers can thrive. With an early autumn period of grazing each year’s seed gets trampled into the soil. Within this process the Yellow Rattle plant is a star - radically reducing the common rush by parasitic action.
After the presentations I introduce myself and invite Giles and Eva to come to the farm where C.G.N.I. is based.
5th October 2016 Giles and Eva visit the farm in Tattenabuddagh, near Brookeborough. With fellow director Fi Gilmour we walk around the fields and soon they’re pointing out indicator plant species – Good! - nutrient levels are already low enough to receive wildflower meadow seed mixes. It’s late in the season and Giles advises us to get the grass ‘scalped off’ and baled in five areas of our meadows.
10th October 2016 Giles returns with a rotary drilling machine. He trundles up and down the freshly scalped fields leaving a trail of scored soil and scattered seed. In a parallel process my imagination immediately conjures up images of what might grow here in the summers ahead.
5th-10th November Frosty weather in Fermanagh – this should help prepare the seed to germinate in the spring. What will comes up? What new flowers will appear in 2017 and following years? How much Yellow Rattle? How many more butterflies, other insects and birds?
Fast forward to 29th April 2017 – a collaboration between Fermanagh writers, Magnificinent Meadows and Common Ground N.I. There will be creative writing, a flowering of poems and prose. And maybe some answers to the questions above? We can’t wait for spring!