Autumn at Langley Vale Farm
The fields of Langley Vale Farm called me back again today. I seem to be making a weekly visit at the moment, and although the place is not totally devoid of birdlife (or potential), I once again left without too much use of the notebook. However, on such a fine autumnal day, with warm sun, blue skies and drowsy butterflies, it would be churlish to demand more.
This farm was recently purchased by the Woodland Trust, who intend to turn it into woodland to commemorate the centenary of the Great War (now 101 years since its start, so the centenary tag might be a little out of date when the project finally comes to fruition). As already remarked upon here, this move has been met with mixed feelings, as the area has been farmed sympathetically for decades and boasts an incredible arable plant assemblage. Another endearing aspect of the farm is that it retains ancient hedgerows, copses and woods, home to many species of tree, shrub, flower and, no doubt, an interesting invertebrate community (yet to be investigated as far as I know). The definition of a hedge on this particular farm is not that of a wispy line of vegetation leaning up against a strand of wire - these are vibrant things, metres deep and comprised many species of wild tree and shrub. The copses and woods are many, and harbour such delights as breeding Buzzards and Green Hellebores.
At this moment in time the farming practices are winding down (there may be a year to two more) and exploration is possible as the shooting syndicate no longer meet here. The rare arable plants will struggle to survive without a helping hand, but all parties are aware of the situation and the plants themselves have some big hitters on their side. It is a priority to survey the area now, to add to the already impressive list of plants present and maybe identify any areas that really should be removed from the threat of woodland planting.
Last year saw a change to the way the farm was managed, which meant that the wide open margins around the field edges were not maintained, which resulted in crops growing up to the hedge line or coarse grasses swamping the crop less areas. It was a struggle to find many of the notable plants this summer. Finger's crossed that the recent dialogue between the interested parties will result in a more sympathetic managing of the land for the true rarities that are to be found on it - but they will only remain if something is done, and done immediately - it may already be too late in some instances.