community garden, community orchard, wildlife site, ecobuilding
An ecological survey of the Meadow Orchard site was undertaken in May 2010 by London Wildlife Trust. We were given advice on how to protect and enhance the delicate wildlife features of this land, which is a site of Grade 1 Importance for Nature Conservation. The undisturbed meadow grassland is a unique feature in a London urban setting and a mosaic of five different habitats supports a rich biodiversity of wild plants and flowers, insects, spiders, trees and bird-life.
There are locally rare yellow meadow ants, which are part of the food-chain supporting bird life, including the green woodpecker (an endangered species in Britain). The yellow meadow ant-hills are protected on our site and some of these are 30-40 years old, which is a unique feature of an undisturbed meadow grassland.
At least 14 bird species are found here including blackcap, song thrush and gold finch, at least 62 wild plant types including 13 grasses, 16 species of tree with a great wealth of English oak. Plus, bramble scrub that also provide shelter and forage for mammals, birds and insects.
The habitat management includes twice annual mowing of the grassland and removal of the grass cuttings, which encourages a wider diversity of wild flowers and mimics the grazing by animals of a traditional meadow. We favour the old-fashioned method of scything by hand rather than using machines, which is much less damaging and more environmentally friendly as well as pleasurable and healthy. Scything is usually done in October and March.
We also maintain the bramble scrub to stop it encroaching into the meadow and remove the small wild-seeded oak saplings before they become mature trees that will shade out the grassland habitat. We maintain the paths and create borders for the wildlife areas. We planted a wild forage hedge with trees donated by the Woodland Trust – hazel, blackthorn, dog rose, wild cherry and crab apple. We have also dug a pond to provide additional wildlife habitat and this is visited by many birds and insects, as well as newts.
We have three bee hives at the back of the site and our bee keeper practices natural bee-keeping. We have been planting bee-friendly plants and wild flowers around the site.