Wildflowers and wildlife take root at River View
Six years after planting wildflower seeds harvested from a local farm - and five years after scattering extra - we are seeing the meadow become more diverse. The buttercups are seeing a faint orange layer of wild sorrel mixed in and the rattle is finally coming through.
The area is a fantastic habitat for ground-nesting birds, which seem to be increasing their numbers. We are also starting to hear curlew in the area, suggesting that the area around the town is becoming more friendly for them. (If you want to hear the sound of the curlew, check out this YouTube video of Scarhouse, posted by Roam with Me in 2017). In amongst all this, we have seen deer in the meadow for two years running and also caught sight of one in the farmland next door the other week - right next to the wall in the side field.
We hear a lot in the media about "rewilding", which inspires images of dense forests and impenetrable landscapes. The Nidderdale reality is a whole lot more gentle than that, more like low density farming that gives wild species a chance to co-exist. For the land around River View, it means wildflowers and long grasses which are not harvested until the birds have flown their nests and also green corridors for birds and mammals to make their homes.
We planted a hedge at the bottom of the hill in the corner a few years ago. It serves as a barrier to encourage the sheep to graze the tussocky grass rather than the easier pickings in the meadow. It also means that when we do an RSPB bird count in February, we have a lot more activity to record in the survey. The honey suckle, crab and elder are getting big now, giving a beautiful mix of blossom on the edge of the footpath. The elders also provide flowers and berries for anyone interested in making wine and jam.
Given the success of the first hedge, we planted more against the edge of the meadow a few years ago. This year we planted sections along the footpath with help from the Nidderdale Volunteers. In time, this mix should grow into something similar to the one we already have on the banking - a rich resource for human foragers and wildlife alike whilst at the same time creating a natural barrier to protect sheep whilst they are grazing and ground nesting birds outside of grazing season. The hedge also forms a "green corridor" through the farmland, which increases the habitat for wild species. In conjunction with other local wildlife restoration projects, it will mean increased biodiversity for the area as a whole.
The project is slow-going with many bumps in the road. Weather does not always do what you want it to. Hence, the double planting of wildflower seeds a few years ago and the missing piece of hedge at the bottom of the meadow. However, we are learning and getting more confident as we go, and there is always an autumn to retry with hedge planting. Nature will always help us out if we are patient, and then we will all be able to enjoy seeing more flowers, blossom, fruit and rare species in years to come.