ST MARY'S CHURCH FIELD ORCHARD
undertaken by DWT volunteers, 22nd July 2010
The orchard comprises a grass area planted with fruit trees bounded by mature hedges on two sides. The grass area is dominated by coarse grasses such as cocksfoot, Yorkshire fog and false oat grass. There are some common herb species present, including creeping cinquefoil, vetches, yarrow, buttercup species, cats' ear and hawkweed. There are also pernicious weed species present such as docks and spear thistles. Overall the sward is fairly species-poor at present. A plant species list is included opposite.
The hedges are mature and provide a good wildlife habitat. They are dominated by typical hedge species such as hazel, holly, wild privet and hawthorn although non natives such as snowberry are also present. There are also mature hedgerow trees including fruit trees and oaks. The ground flora is typical of enrichment with docks and nettles common. Other ground flora margin species alongside the hedges include coarse grasses, hogweed, buttercups and bramble.
A range of common butterflies were observed including large and small white, common blue, red admiral, peacock, gatekeeper and common brown. Other invertebrates seen include ladybird species, a range of grasshoppers, spiders, shield bugs, tree hoppers and capsids.
Overall the hedges, long grass areas, pond area and eventually the fruit trees will provide good habitat for wildlife including invertebrates and small mammals. It may be worth considering laying the hedges at some point in the future, however it would perhaps be worth doing so in sections rather than all at once.
The grass area is likely to be quite enriched which will contribute to the dominance of the coarse grass species. The site will need to be cut back in the summer (after any herbs have finished flowering) to control these grasses, and ideally cuttings need to be removed to prevent further enrichment. It is also worth considering a cut early in the year if the grass has grown excessively over winter. Another option would be to introduce yellow rattle, a plant which parasitises grass and so helps control its growth. This would then give other species an opportunity to colonise or be introduced.
Overall, this is an interesting site for both wildlife and the community, and we will endeavour to support its development and management in the future.
Grassland plant species
False Oat Grass
Common Cats ear
Broad leaved dock
Mouse ear chickweed
Narrow leaved Pepperwort