On either side of College road, on the way to the Martello Fields and beach, are two sunken green spaces “The Covers”. Few people notice them in passing, and residents only rarely use them for recreation.
We believe that these fields used to be part of a bigger grassland area, some of which was used for cricket!
Usually this area of grass is mown regularly. Local resident Kate had observed that the grass was normally cut short just as the flowering plants and grasses got most interesting for wildlife! She wrote to the council, and we were all delighted when they agreed to leave these areas uncut in the Summer. They would have just a “meadow cut” later in the year. The council wrote to local residents, to let them know why the mowing regime was changing.
So how has it gone?
In April the banks were carpets of dandelions and Red Dead Nettle – heaven for early pollinating insects. By May buttercups flourished too along the verges and it was incredible just how many birds were using these fields! As you walked past, sparrows chattered from the dense cover of the mallow, inches from your feet. On the Ringmer Road side, flocks of goldfinches too descended on the field, in tinkling clouds.
The fields were quite different. The Ringmer Road side had much longer grasses like Meadow Barley, poppies and towering Common mallow. The other field had mallow too, but when that flush had died down, you could see finer grasses, yarrow and knapweed. I spotted butterflies including Meadow Brown, Small White, and Common Blue shown above on Bird’s foot trefoil.
On a visit at the end of August, I was amazed at how many different bees and other insects were in eastern field. Particularly near the hedge line (which backs onto gardens) and a sheltered corner, it really was buzzing!
In September we managed to fit in a simple flowering plant count which showed really promising results with 31 different species still visible. We hope to do a more in-depth survey in the Spring. We even found an unseasonal flowering of dog’s mercury along a fence line. This is a plant often seen carpeting the floor in ancient woodlands.
All the neighbours I spoke to were hugely enthusiastic about the “renaturing” in these fields, delighted with the variety of flowers appearing, and the diversity of wildlife. On one occasion I spotted a sparrowhawk fly across, and in the last few weeks a couple of young foxes scampered across the now mown grass.
We did notice that the long vegetation made the fields a bit less accessible for people (and their dogs) and of course we do want people to be able enjoy these spaces too.
Therefore the “On the Verge” team including a local ecologist have recommended that the field is left longer again next year, but that paths are mowed across the spaces, to make them more accessible.
It will be a subcommittee of Seaford Town council, which decides very soon, whether the field will be managed in the same way next year. If you support this initiative, please do urgently let your local councillor or town clerk, know your views!
If you would like to help promote and monitor the “renaturing” in our local green spaces, please get in touch, there is plenty to do!
“Cover” : Shelter or Protection from danger
Find out more about why it is vital to protect habitats for insects here