So we have appeared in Monastery Meadows and you are wondering why we are here. In weather like this, so are we! The thing is, we are here to tell you a story, one that isn’t often told – a tale of change and quiet loss to our countryside and culture. Late cut meadows like these used to be found on every farm, but across the UK and Ireland, 98% of them have been lost in the last 50 years. Fermanagh, for various reasons, can however still boast some of them. Monastery Meadows, though given it’s urban location not typical, is representative of these meadows, and the wildlife that can flourish in them.
Here we can see all sorts of wildlife. From when the meadow was cut in August to when our heads are carried away towards Christmas, we witness many wonderful sights. Beautiful flowers flourish as birds make their nests in the hedgerows. Butterflies and bees gather nectar and pollen while the grasses and plants still stand in the summer. Dragonflies and damselflies patrol the field in late summer – creatures with the best eyesight in the animal kingdom! Mammals like red squirrels and pygmy shrews make their homes here, as amphibians like frogs and newts enjoy the dampness. Hunters like foxes, buzzards and sparrow hawks know that they can find food here.
All this wildlife thrives because hayheads like ours are made late. Nature is allowed to run it’s course, before providing fodder for stock in the winter. So while hay can be difficult to make, hay heads like ours wouldn’t see wildlife like this if all the fields in Fermanagh were cut early!