Although the farmed landscape of Ceredigion is still made up of traditional small farms and fields, the habitats have not escaped the changes in agricultural practice so common in the story of the decline of species-rich grassland habitats across the UK.
All of the Save Our Magnificent Meadows sites in Ceredigion are under threat from a lack of grazing and encroaching scrub - the cliffs are steep and challenging to graze and over time they have been abandoned in favour of more productive land. These sites are now owned and managed by National Trust Wales who are able to lead the way by fencing and grazing the coastal land and work with their tenants to encourage them improve the nature value of these special sites.
National Trust Wales are the lead Save Our Magnificent Meadows partner in Ceredigion and the project sites are:
The majority of the ground work has focussed on installing or replacing infrastructure such as fencing, gates and water troughs. These were identified as key barriers to improving the conservation value of our sites. By ‘securing our boundaries’ we are in a better position to be able to introduce livestock to these priority grasslands which is essential to prevent coarser grasses from dominating and to gradually reduce bracken and scrub such as gorse and blackthorn. To aid the ponies in their work we have also cut 12.5ha of gorse and bracken so far and will continue to do so into the third and final year of the project.
One notable success so far is at one of our coastal sites at Penbryn where approximately 3ha of gorse dominated coastal heath has been brought back into favourable management through this new infrastructure. The newly re-established site was the winter residence of our new welsh mountain ponies (also funded by the project). These ponies stayed on site throughout the winter before making the short journey up the coast to another site called Ynys Lochtyn. An additional benefit to the work that HLF is funding is that we are now able to re-focus our limited resources on areas which may otherwise have been overlooked. With help and advice from ecological consultants we have written management plans for all of the Ceredigion countryside sites.
Over the last few months our focus has been on clearing gorse and tree saplings that have been encroaching into our hay meadows and grasslands. Our volunteers have spent over 100 hours at Rhos Cwmsaeson and Cwm Tydu clearing areas which hopefully in spring and summer will be full of colour and different species, rather than just having a covering of gorse.
Our herd of welsh mountain ponies are continuing their good work grazing on the coastal sites. They are moved on rotation around the sites every three months or so. They are currently grazing on the scrub slope at Penbryn for the winter where they are doing a fantastic job of trampling down the bracken and pushing into the gorse patches creating bare ground and space for smaller plants to thrive.
Over the coming months we will be continuing with more gorse clearance at Ty Hen, Ynys Lochtyn and Rhos Cwmsaeson. We are holding volunteer work party days on the 2nd Wednesday of every month. Please contact Victoria Squire on Victoria.firstname.lastname@example.org or 01545 573031 if you wish to attend.
In the summer we will be hosting a National Meadows Day event on 1st July 2017 and a Bumblebee ID Training day with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust – keep an eye on the website for more details.
For more information on Save Our Magnificent Meadows in Ceredigion see this short video produced by National Trust Wales.