Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s ABBA project is creating three wetland scrapes in Lambrok Meadow.
The first scrape is in the middle of Lambrok Meadow, where there is boggy ground near the goat willow tree. In the winter there has always been standing water here, and in the early spring frogs have spawned in the puddles and caddis fly larvae have appeared wearing cases made of grass stalks and pieces of twig from the willow tree. But these ephemeral pools have always dried up before either the frogs or the caddis fly could mature into adults.
There are springs in Lambrok Meadow where the clay and the riverine deposits meet. Over the years, as the 19th century drainage systems have collapsed, the springs have re-appeared as boggy patches growing sedges and reeds. We hope that this new pool, which will be a metre deep in its centre, will tap into these underground sources so that it will hold water year round. The tadpoles will have time to grow into froglets and the caddis fly larvae into adults.
If there is open water, dragonflies and damselflies will find it, wading birds will come and explore, bringing the eggs of water insects and fish in the mud on their feet. The pool’s shallow edges will provide habitat for wetland flora: purple loosestrife, yellow flag and hemp agrimony.
The spoil, the soil that has been dug out of the scrape, has been used to make beetle banks on the uphill side of the meadow. A beetle bank is a raised area in farmed land, a refuge from the machinery that the farmer uses to cultivate the fields. Here, insects will be able to complete their life cycles without the annual interruption of haymaking, establishing stable populations among the uncut vegetation, while small mammals can burrow in soil that has not been compacted by heavy machinery.
Lambrok Meadow is always cut from end to end, parallel to the main path, and the beetle banks run in the same direction, to minimise the disruption and loss of acreage to our tenant farmer. The boggy patch where the scrape has been dug was too soft for the farmer’s machines in any but the driest of years but the new pool will drain and firm up the surrounding area: a win all round, we hope.
The work isn’t finished yet but we will try to keep you up to date with its progress.
Header image: drone shot by Simon Knight