In the park’s top field, (highlighted on the map) we are working to encourage the spread of native wildflowers (such as Common Orchids, Yellow Rattle and Lady’s Smock), by ensuring hay is cut and taken away from the field to rot.
The reason why it is essential to cut the hay and remove it from the field is that, when it decomposes, the hay releases nutrients into the soil and the wildflowers do not thrive in such nutrient-rich conditions. Having native wildflowers in the park not only increases everyone’s enjoyment of such a beautiful green space but most importantly, these flowers are an essential source of nectar and pollen to feed insects such as bees, moths and butterflies.
In recent years farmers have cut the hay in the park, working in partnership with Harrogate Borough Council, and it has been baled and removed from the site in order to feed the farmer’s livestock. Farmers can only commit to cutting the hay when they are in a position to use the crop. This arrangement of cutting when demand requires it for the farmer does not, as can be imagined, work for a wildflower meadow. Instead, a definite timeframe of cuts is required to promote the successful conditions required.
The top field, which has the richest population of wildflowers in the park, was not cut by the farmer at the end of summer 2017 like the rest of the park because the hay was not of good enough quality to feed to livestock. So, understandably, the farmer did not want to take the hay from the top field. The Friends of Jacob Smith Park committee and HBC Countryside Ranger, Sam Walker, were naturally disappointed to find the top field in this situation, and took the only option available to them to allow a small portion of the hay in the field to be cut, raked and put in a pile away from the field to rot down. To achieve this result, Ranger Sam cut the hay with a mower and a team of volunteers met on a Sunday morning to rake and remove.
Take the challenge - have you got what it rakes?
In 2018, to give the wildflowers the best possible chance of spreading, a much larger area of the top field is going to be tackled in this way. The Friends of Jacob Smith Park committee is challenging individuals, families, groups and businesses to ‘adopt’ a piece of the top field and make it their mission to show they have what it ‘rakes’ to help make a wildflower meadow, by coming along to organised park events to rake the hay and remove it. This will make such a massive difference to the park and its wildlife.
So what are you waiting for – hay?!