Rakes and Cakes

Hay Day 2023

Another successful ‘Community Hay-Day’

Over twenty villagers took part in the popular ‘Community Hay-Day’ on Saturday 2 September, bringing rakes and wheelbarrows to improve conditions for wildflowers on the village recreation ground.

Help was also provided this year by Bee King from Hampshire County Council’s team of experts and by the South Downs National Park Authority who lent a number of traditional-style wooden hay rakes (used for centuries for hay and straw turning) which were game changing! 

For the last few years, swathes of grass around the edges of the Recreation Ground have been allowed to grow long – with appreciation from villagers and wildlife.

But, as experts have advised, the grass has to be cut at least once a year or else it forms a thick thatch and wildflowers can’t survive.

And then all the cuttings have to be removed to reduce soil fertility which is the key to helping more wildflowers in the future.

The raking action during the Hay-Day also helps to open up the grasses and give more wildflowers a chance to get established.

This year, the first effects of the Yellow Rattle sown last winter could be appreciated. It is a semi-parasitic flower which feeds off the nutrients in the roots of nearby grasses. Once seen as indicator of poor grassland by farmers, it is now often used to turn improved grassland back to meadow by allowing delicate, traditional species to push their way through.

All the hard work was completed in about two hours and was followed by well-earned refreshments thanks to Maggie Johnston and Fran’s “Sundays To Go” cake-making team.

The Parish Council’s nature and wildlife projects have been selected as part of the South Downs National Park Trust’s ‘Bee-Lines’ and ‘Re-Naturing’ initiatives as well as being a Pollinator Pilot area for Hampshire County Council’s Countryside Service.

As well as improving conditions for wildlife by connecting green spaces and creating corridors to help creatures, the work is intended to increase awareness and understanding amongst residents.

More families in the parish are now helping wildlife in their gardens and there are also contributions from local farms, in local Nature Reserves and hopefully along road verges in the future, too.

Many small creatures are vital for crops and food production but they have been declining badly in recent decades. These projects are intended to help people appreciate the wider benefits that managing land for biodiversity can bring for everyone: helping nature to help us!