Hay Meadows and Hay Watch

Hay Meadows Survey, report
A history of the Hay Meadows  

News The aftermath cutting of the hay meadows is in progress (right, September 2015), following the hay harvest in July. This should reduce the dominance of False Oat-grass and encourage finer grasses and flowers.  The cutting also reduces Creeping Thistle and Ragwort. For Lyon field this is the third cut this year which should benefit the flora.   

The aftermath cutting should soon be followed by harrowing.  This ‘combs’ out and breaks up the matt of thatch at just above ground level.  There is still much thatch remaining from the un-harvested material from 2014.  Harrowing is aimed at increasing the number of small gaps at ground level, enabling the germination of seeds and an increase in the number of vegetative stems for those species that do not spread by seed.  Possibly it scarifies the ground slightly to enable germination from the buried seed bank.

Hay Watch Hay harvesting at Fryent Country Park typically commences in mid-July but the weather and other factors can delay the start. (Right the 2015 hay harvest). The majority of the meadows are harvested while leaving uncut a tenth of the area of each meadow.  The uncut areas are rotated each year so there will be a different area left uncut.  The purpose of the uncut area is to encourage the conservation of invertebrates. Five of the meadows (Lower Hydes East, Lyon Field, Honey Slough West and East, and Half Yardes Meade) have all of their area harvested. Visitors are encouraged to visit Fryent Country Park and to keep a watch for potential problems.  Peak times are during dry evenings, afternoons and at weekends.  It is best to visit the harvest in groups of two or more. 

Hay harvesting involves a number of stages:  
1. The hay (grass and other meadow flowers) is cut during dry weather.
2. The cut material is left on the ground for about 24-48 hours, during which time much of the internal water content of the material is lost.
3. Drying is facilitated by using a rotating fork to tedder (spread) the material, allowing air circulation and exposure to the sun.
4. When dry, the hay will be gathered into windrows (swathes of dried hay) prior to baling.  
5. If it rains at any stage before collection, the material must be spread and dried again.
6. The hay is transported to the other farm.

Sometimes the hay is harvested as haylage.  For this the hay is partially but not fully dried, but the material can be harvested from the fields more quickly than for hay.  It may be gathered loose. To increase the floristic diversity of the meadows, and to reduce Creeping Thistles, there may be an aftermath cut in the late summer or early autumn.  This produces less material than the main harvest and at Fryent Country Park, is often left on the ground rather than harvested.  Another operation that may be carried out later in the summer or during the autumn is chain harrowing.  This is like a comb drawn through the meadows and helps to break up the matt or thatch of dead vegetation at ground level. The hay harvesting has been made possible under an Environmental Stewardship agreement with Natural England. At Masons Field, a restoration project is working to restore the meadow with the introduction, or re-introduction of wild seeds, plants and bulbs.  The first hay harvest in recent times was taken in 2013. This is part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project to restore Masons Field. Barn Hill Conservation Group also survey the meadows in the second-half of June each year.  This is a good opportunity to learn flower and grass identification and learners are always welcome.

Useful Contacts

Office hours: Brent Council Parks Service: telephone 020 8937 5619.
If an urgent situation arises out of office hours ‘phone the main Brent switchboard:
020 8937 1234 and ask for ‘Parks Standby.’  Briefly explain the nature of the urgency to the switchboard operator.
(If an emergency, ‘phone the Police or Fire Service first, if appropriate).

For less urgent enquiries use:
Office hours: Brent Councils Parks Service: telephone 020 8937 5619 (answerphone out of office hours). 
Roe Green Walled Garden: volunteer team: (answerphone):  020 8206 0492
Police: non-emergencies: 
Wembley Police: 020 8903 1212   
The local Kingsbury Police: 020 8733 4256
Fryent Ward Police
Barn Hill Ward Police
Brent Council Sports and Parks Service: Environment and Neighbourhood Services Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0FJ.  Tel: 020 8937 5628, Reception: 020 8937 1234, Fax: 020 8937 5715.  Mobile: 07867 184456

The following group activities are organised during the harvest:
Barn Hill Conservation Group: weekly conservation projects.

Butterfly Transect: Two transects, walked weekly.