Dartmoor Hay Meadows at Beechwood B&B...

 

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Hay Meadows at Beechwood on Dartmoor
When we first looked over Beechwood we knew the meadows would make the property very special but at that time we didn't realise quite how special. The collection of wild flowers and plants that appears as spring gets under way and then the proliferation in early summer is nothing short of extraordinary. As a result of our enthusiasm and visits from ecologists and botanists, we now manage these meadows to ensure that all of the flowers and plants, especially the orchids, thrive and spread.
Opportunities for wildflower enthusiasts, botanists and photographers
Beechwood's haymeadows, and others in and around Postbridge, are unique and sadly there are now only a few of them. We have really enjoyed learning about them and the species they contain, the chance to take photographs was just the icing on the cake!
Heath Spotted Orchids
Dartmoor Hay Meadows- by J. Lavington-Evans
The traditional Dartmoor hay meadows evolved from the farming practice of long ago. Because of poor acid soil on the moor, many wild flower species thrived, which in turn attracted a wide variety of butterflies. The method of farming before the 1939-45 war meant that hay was cut fairly late in the year as no lime or artificial fertilizer was used, unlike today’s silage making which is done early and uses artificial fertilisers making use of modern technology in order to obtain a better yield. This practice resulted in the decline of wild flowers which were cut too early to allow them to seed, or were squeezed out by vigorous strains of aggressive grasses sown to increase yields – very necessary in wartime when the cry from the government was ‘grow two blades of grass where formerly there was only one!’ In certain meadows today, on farms which have management agreements with the DNPA, the flora has increased again and so have the butterflies and other insects. There are now an excellent variety of flowering plants to be found which are generally at their peak during June. Five varieties of orchids including greater butterfly orchid, common twayblade and early purple can be found besides many other species such as yellow rattle, ox-eye daisy, common knapweed, self heal, eyebright, bird’s foot trefoil, pignut and yarrow.To keep them at their best, these meadows need careful management, not being cut until August when most flowers have dropped their seed, and then grazed during autumn and early winter with sheep or cattle, as long as the ground is not too wet when it will be “poached” (made muddy) by cattle in particular,often resulting in a patch of docks. A small amount of cattle manure may be added annually but no artificial fertilisers.
   
Orchids
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"The meadows of Beechwood were a perfect delight this year with a profusion of orchids and other flowers and also butterflies and other insects."
- J Lavington-Evans
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To read more about hay meadows on Dartmoor
Dartmoor Hay Meadows

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