Sustainable Marshfield: supporting biodiversity at the Community Centre
In recent decades many birds, insects, plants and small mammals previously common in and around Marshfield have greatly diminished due to loss of habitat where they can safely live.
These native species make our gardens and landscapes varied and healthful and are essential for the survival of future generations of humans too.
In small and big ways we can help them flourish again right now in our rural community, our own backyards, fields and woodlands – in Marshfield!
'Sustainable Marshfield' held their first annual fair at the Community Centre on 26 October 2019 to promote community actions in response to the environmental and social challenges facing us all.
They have been helping us turn the surrounding land into a haven for wildlife and a place to showcase inspiring ways in which we can all contribute to the health and biodiversity of our area.
Community oak and native hedge
An English oak was planted in front of the Centre on 28 November 2019. Oak trees support more life than any other native tree species in the UK; even the fallen leaves will support biodiversity.
A stretch of mixed native hedge was added near the west side of the building on 23 December 2019. We hope this will provide shelter for birds attracted by insects in our wildflower verges.
Wildflower verges for pollinators
The steep verges either side of Hayfield Road were seeded with a cornfield mix and St Catherines grassland mix from Emorsgate Seeds on 21 September 2019.
Blue Heart signs and temporary explanatory notices were put up. Eventually, we hope to have a noticeboard showing native species of plants and wildlife that might be spotted in the area.
A work in progress ...
The cornfield mixture has produced a colourful display of corncockle, cornflower, corn chamomile, corn marigold and poppy in the spring and summer of 2020.
These annuals suppress weed growth and give shelter to the undersown perennial meadow species (St Catherines). The annuals don't grow in grassland so will diminish in coming years.
Where a cornfield mixture is sown with a meadow mixture, the cornfield annuals are cut and removed after flowering. Then the meadow species underneath can begin to get established.
The meadow mixture we used includes perennial grass and wild flower species found in our area and will take at least a year to establish from sowing. These plants prefer less fertile, dry soils.
Next year (2021), the 'meadow' will be left uncut to flower, and a first 'hay crop' can be taken in mid-summer. The cut grass will be dried on site to help seeds disperse back onto the verges.
The early years of an area like this are likely to show the more quickly establishing pioneer perennials such as oxeye daisy. In following years, our verges should become more diverse.
The character and composition of these verges will continue to change with time but a relatively stable community of diverse plants typical of our area should establish there eventually.
We hope that visitors will enjoy the subtle flowers and forms of the wild plants and the variety of insects, birds and small mammals that are likely to be attracted by these wilder areas.
Community Centre Planters
The two planters outside the Community Centre were built for the Cubs and Beavers to have a place to garden, plant and raise flower and vegetable seeds. Recently the centres of the beds have been planted to give some additional interest. The focus has been on providing food for wildlife throughout the year using a mixture of mainly native plants: a crabapple tree, hawthorne, hazel and buddleia. These have been underplanted with native bulbs, perennials and biennials: foxglove, forget-me-not, honesty, primroses, snowdrops, sedum, scabious, black currants, cranesbill, verbena bonariensis and calendula. Annuals will follow as the children plant around the edges.
A three-bin composting system is now up and running under the trees by main road. We collect up all our green waste, especially grass and hedge clippings. Through active management, shredding and turning, we aim to produce lovely compost in around 6 months. This reduces the need to transport waste from the site and will improve our growing soils.
'One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.' William Shakespeare