Much UK grassland is semi natural, having originated as a result of man's pastoral and agricultural activity, often over thousands of years. Most remaining lowland grassland is species poor, having been "improved" with fertilizers and new grass mixtures. Unimproved lowland grassland, such as the species-rich Parish Field, is now a rare habitat, 98% having been lost since the Second World War due to a combination of improvement, development and abandonment.
The dry mesotrophic grassland in the Parish Field is mainly MG5 (Centaurea nigra-Cynosurus cristatus) with sub communities of MG5a (Lathyrus pratensis), MG5b (Galium verum) and MG5c (Danthonia decumbens). This is an unusual combination and MG5b is particularly restricted in South Wales. It also has a small amount of MG1 (Arrhenatherum elatius) grassland as well as scrub and bracken. As the MG5 grassland community is mainly confined to the British Isles, the UK has special responsibility for its conservation.
The average ph is around 6, weakly acid despite the underlying carboniferous limestone. The field slopes southwest to the stile and steeply west to Cae Rhedyn. This west slope appears more oligotrophic (nutrient poor). Nutrient rich areas are seen along the east hedge, the lower hollow right of the path, the sacrificial compost area and by the south hedge east of the stile. Previously these areas have either been used as latrine areas by horses or for the deposition of leavings after grass cutting.
Without active management, lowland grassland will revert to climax communities of scrub and deciduous woodland, as has happened over the last 70 years to the common land facing the Rhiw.
2: What are we trying to achieve?
Management is about choices and the hardest choice was to decide what the parish field should be managed for. To manage the 3-acre Parish Field as species rich unimproved grassland, a choice is being made not to allow the climax vegetation to become established, which would crowd out the herbs through light reduction and enhanced fertility. In the case of the Parish Field, years of scrub build up have already reduced the grassland area. Factors influencing management include
· The lease requires the field to be managed for the benefit of the community
· The public footpath through the field is part of the Millennium Trail
· Dog walkers favour the field as part of a circular walk
· Horse grazing is prohibited under the lease
· Rabbit grazing is present
· This grassland habitat is uncommon in the UK (less than 5,000 hectares) and rare locally.
· Scrub/woodland habitat has some value but is relatively common
· Whichever management methods are used will result in differing vegetation patterns.
· There are cost and time implications of active management