A nature-rich meadow in Emersons Green
Emersons Green Common
Local naturalist Ed Drewitt discovers a surprisingly rich meadow right in the middle of our community
THE triangle of land where Emersons Green Lane divides marked the heart of the original Emersons Green area.
It would have been used for grazing sheep, cows and horses and was probably unchanged for many centuries.
Up until late in the 20th century, the area was devoted to farming and market gardening, the present park was grazing fields and the woodland corridor known as Green Lane was a drove road, a connecting track where farmers could move their cows between fields.
Even after all the recent changes that have happened to the surrounding landscape, the green triangle bordering Emersons Green Lane remains much as it always was.
It is now a remarkable gem, snuggled in the area closely connected to the drove road and the park.
Being largely unchanged, the green has been unimproved, which means it has never had any chemicals such as fertilisers applied (apart from occasional cow dung!). This has meant that wildflowers have not been outcompeted by competitive grasses and flowering plants that have been here for hundreds of years are still growing in swathes across the green.
This is so special that it is part of only 3% of wild flower meadows left in the UK since World War Two.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of viewing and surveying the area and I was blown away by how rich the green was. It was covered in meadow cranesbill, a geranium that today is often limited to roadside verges, knapweed, birds-foot trefoil, quaking grass, wild onion and sneezewort, amongst others. Even where there are richer soils and hogweed, grasses and horseradish dominate, and the meadow cranesbill still thrives.
For the people of Emersons Green today, this green is a huge asset and a green space to be cherished, loved and admired. It also needs to be cared for in a way that ensures it remains unimproved.
Emersons Green Town Council have been cutting the green just once a year, which is good practice and I am recommending that, in the future, the cut material is removed to ensure that it doesn’t form a thatch, rot down and fertilise the soil. We want the soil to be low in nutrients.
The green will also be divided into four sections, and three out of four sections will be cut each year. On rotation, one section will remain uncut. This is to allow a refuge for wildlife, for example, grasshoppers, bush crickets and moth/butterfly caterpillars, so they have longer vegetation left to spend the winter. It also allows eggs and pupae of invertebrates to remain intact and on site, ready to emerge in the spring.
The ecology survey reported in this article was an initiative by Friends of Emersons Green Park that has included training local people to monitor wildlife in the area. It was funded by South Gloucestershire Councillor Judy Adams’ members award funding.