Walshes Park has previously been used to graze horses. The build up of manure has resulted in a nutrient rich soil. Although such soils are sought after by avid gardeners, they are not suitable for the establishment of wildflower meadows. The rich soils provide ideal conditions for a small number of prolific grass species, which soon dominate the grassland at the expense of wildflower species. The long-term aim therefore, is to reduce the soil nutrient levels to reduce the dominance of grasses and to encourage the establishment of High Weald character wildflower meadows with all of wildlife benefits they bring.
One way to reduce nutrient levels is to implement a cut and collect management regime. As the grassland grows it utilises nutrients within the soil, the grass is then cut and removed from site, taking with it any nutrients stored in the grass that would otherwise return to the soil as it decomposes. Another way to reduce the dominance of grasses is through the introduction of yellow rattle. This plant lives a semi-parasitic life by feeding off the nutrients in the roots of nearby grasses. For this reason, it was once seen as an indicator of poor grassland by farmers, but is now often used to turn improved grassland back to meadow.
Visible in most of the field areas are swaths where wildflower seed has been sown to ‘kick start’ an increased wildflower population. Positioned generally along the south-western boundaries of each field, once established, the prevailing wind will aid in the spread of the wildflower seed across the landscape, increasing the area of wildflower meadow year-by-year.
Enjoying the seasonal changes of the grassland landscape is actively encouraged here through the use of the Seasonal Cut Spaces formed within the meadows. Enjoy a brief pause to catch a view of the wider landscape, meet with family or friends sat at eye level with the swaying grassland for a picnic or encourage the children’s imagination with informal play, Frisbee or perhaps kite flying.