News from Lugg Meadow, Spring 2018

Monday 29th January 2018

Lugg Meadow is one of Hereford’s treasures: a rare surviving floodplain meadow of historic and botanical significance and a much-loved and visited green space on the edge of the city.

The site has a somewhat more complex background than many green spaces and nature reserves. As well as a number of local residents holding historic grazing rights ownership of the meadow is held by a number of different organisations and individuals. The meadow’s status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest also means that it must be managed and protected such that this special habitat is preserved and enhanced.

Ensuring that the meadow and its wildlife is carefully cared for while welcoming visitors has always been a balancing act. An increase in visits over recent years we believe has directly impacted on the population of curlews. Once a key species at this site, they no longer breed on Upper Lugg. However, seeing many people out enjoying nature, with all the benefits this brings, is inspiring and it is great to see people appreciating this wonderful nature reserve.

In consultation with all those holding rights to the area, in order to ensure improved access for regular dog walkers and visitors to the area, Herefordshire Wildlife Trust have taken a decision to remove livestock from Bank Meadow and Wood Meadow for the foreseeable future, and instead mow the fields to maintain short grassland. (Bank Meadow and Wood Meadow are the fields immediately below our Baynton Wood nature reserve, with multiple access points from Tupsley North recreational ground and Rickyard Pasture, adjacent to Lower House Farm.) 

These meadows are popular with dog walkers, and we hope that the new management approach will improve the experience for people who own dogs. This area will now be able to welcome dogs off leads in this area throughout the year. 

On Upper Lugg Meadow, the most botanically-rich area of the floodplain grassland where the famous snake’s head fritillaries can be seen in spring, we will be asking for dogs to be kept on leads throughout the year and for people to pick up after their dogs. Faeces in the hay is dangerous to livestock, causing death in some cases, as well as vastly reducing its desirability and thus our ability to carry out the essential management. We hope this will lead to the return of breeding curlews and the flourishing of other species too and will be monitoring the wildlife populations to see if this makes a positive difference.

Bridging the gap

Back in November, the small wooden bridge which crosses the Lugg Rhea between Bank Meadow and Upper Lugg Meadow which the Trust installed in 1997, partially collapsed with one support broken and had to be closed and subsequently removed. We are planning on replacing this with a bridge further to the south-east, closer to the A438 Ledbury Road and we hope that this will be in place by mid-April 2018. We plan for this to bridge to be suitable for all-terrain mobility scooters to allow people with limited mobility better access to the site.

Grassland management update

The meadow is managed by both grazing and mowing for hay with the soils periodically fertilized by silt from the River Lugg’s flood waters. Over the last year, however, the balance of the grasses and herbage has become a little out of kilter. We will therefore be spot-spraying some weeds – primarily docks – this spring to ensure a good quality hay crop this summer. This will mean some areas will be temporarily fenced off for safety but this will be for as short a time as possible.

Fritillary Celebration

This year – flood waters allowing – we will be celebrating the beautiful snake’s head fritillaries with a morning of guided walks on 21st April. As well as seeing these lovely wildflowers, the walk leaders will discuss the history and ecology of the whole nature reserve – a fascinating insight to this wonderful place. Places must be booked in advance through our website or call us on 01432 356762 and cost £7; under 14s are free. Click here for full details.

Lower House Farm

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s offices have been based at Lower House Farm beside the meadow since the mid-1990s. The farmhouse is a beautiful listed timber-framed building but sadly we have outgrown its charmingly crooked corridors and we will be relocating this year to Queenswood Country Park where many of our staff are already based. We are selling Lower House Farm and the adjoining orchard, but will continue to own and manage our other land holdings on Lugg Meadow and plan to install improved interpretation and information signage on site.