Friends of Middle Street Meadow
A ‘Friends’ group has been formed to help care for the meadow and to carry out some management tasks. The group is supported by Salisbury City Council Parks Department.
Friends group events:
Work day events will be announced for January, February and March 2020
See EVENTS page for more details
We have had a very successful start to the winter 2018/19 season with an average of 8 people coming along to all our work days. We plan to continue to alternate between Saturdays and a weekday for the next 3 months as this gives everyone an opportunity to come long whether they are working during the week or have other commitments at weekends.
Dates for your diary for 2019:
Friday 18th January, Saturday 9th February, Friday 15th March.
Work normally starts at 10.00 and finishes between 12.30 and 1.00 but it’s fine to come and go whenever it suits you. On the days when tree felling is planned James likes to start early, at about 9.00, so that he can get underway before everyone arrives. He will be carrying out more tree work on Jan. 19th to finish work on the copse south of the flood bank which was started last winter.
As you may know Salisbury City Council have a new Parks Manager, Mostyn Coombes, he came along to meet us on our work day on 23rd November and we took the opportunity to walk round with him and explain what we were trying to achieve. He is certainly a man of action and the meadow was finally cut on the following Monday, much of it hadn’t been cut for the last couple of years and he didn’t want it left for another season. It was far too late in the year but although some damage was done it is already recovering.
The meadow hasn’t had a new management plan since the mid-1990s, long before the flood relief scheme was installed in 2007/8. Mostyn wants to discuss future management with us in the Spring.
In the meantime, we decided that it would be a good idea if we explained the role of the ‘Friends’, what we are trying to achieve and why. Many of you have joined us over the last year or so and may not be aware of exactly what we are trying to do and there is often no opportunity to talk about it on work days.
Currently the Parks grounds team are scheduled to cut the football pitch and the paths on a regular basis throughout the season. The remainder of the grass, south of the flood bank, is cut annually in late summer and the cuttings removed, the aim is to reduce nutrient levels and so benefit wildflowers in the long term. This is what they have failed to do for the last couple of years because of staff shortages.
The area of the meadow between the river and the flood bank, which includes the pond, is mainly cared for by the Friends. We also do some tree and hedge work on the south side of the bank.
Tree work: as part of the flood alleviation scheme the Environment Agency planted a large number of tree saplings, far more than was suitable for what was an old water meadow. They were planted far too close together and unexpectedly all survived, normal survival rates for new planting is about 50%. We are now left with far too many trees, too close together so that they can’t grow properly and where they are close to the paths causing shading and increasingly muddy conditions throughout the winter.
To address this Planning consent was given for us to remove some trees that were shading the paths, this preliminary work will be complete at the end of this season. There will then be another application to thin out some of the copses to allow the trees room to grow and remove some of the taller trees to prevent further shading of the paths.
The trees around the pond are self-seeded and were obliterating views of the pond and having an impact on the biodiversity of the aquatic life. Over the last couple of years we have opened up views across the pond so that there is more open water for dragon and damselflies and to help reduce antisocial behaviour. We will maintain these open areas by cutting the regrowth each year. The remaining trees will be left to provide shelter and nest sites for birds. On the December workday we thinned some of the trees close to the path and seats to reduce shading. Because of the wet conditions on the meadow the trees grow at a phenomenal rate so we will constantly have to review our plans.
James is our qualified chainsaw operator and as well as the work he does with us he has also taken on responsibility, on behalf of the Council for any storm damage, removing any fallen branches which obstruct the paths, providing they are not too big. This means the work is undertaken swiftly whenever the need arises rather than waiting for the Council to take action.
Grassland: the grass areas north of the flood bank are not cut by the Council so Mike has undertaken a scything course and you will have seen him out with his scythe keeping some of these areas under control. This traditional method is highly beneficial to wildflowers which then benefit butterflies and other insect life. Part of the area north of the pond, towards the footbridge, will be allowed to develop into a reedbed so that in future you will walk along the path through the reeds, which should give close up views of the birdlife of the reedbeds.
Bramble: there has been a significant increase in bramble growth over the years which is now obliterating views of the river along much of its length and also starting to spread across some of the paths. We need to keep this under control and so recently made a successful application for a Salisbury City Council Community Grant to purchase a heavy-duty brush cutter. Now we need to get training organised for a couple of volunteers before we can go into action. Paul, from the Friends of Harnham Slope, spent a morning with us in November and demonstrated the benefits of using a brush cutter for this sort of work.
Work days will stop in March before the start of the nesting season but Mike will continue to scythe some areas to create open paths to enable butterfly monitoring to continue. 2019 will be our 25th year of counting butterflies on behalf of Butterfly Conservation!