From the Countryside Council for Wales
YOUR SPECIAL SITE AND ITS FUTURE Your   Special   Site   and   its   Future    is   part   of   our   commitment   to   improve   the   way   we   work   with   Site   of   Special   Scientific   Interest   (SSSI)   owners   and occupiers. In it, we explain what is special about the wildlife on your site, and what care is needed to look after its wildlife into the future. All   SSSIs   are   considered   to   be   of   national   importance   and   we   recognise   the   crucial   role   that   owners   and   occupiers   play   in   their   management   and protection.   We      need   you   to   share   your   views   and   knowledge   of   this   site   with   us,   to   help   safeguard   it.   We   hope   that   you   will   find   ‘Your      Special Site   and   its   Future’   interesting   and   helpful.   Please      contact   us   if   there   is   anything   about   the   site   and   its   management   that   you   would   like   to discuss.   What   is   ‘special’   about   the   wildlife   at   The   Parish   Field,   Cae’r   Rhedyn   SSSI?   The   Parish   Field,   Cae’r   Rhedyn   SSSI   has   one   special   feature:     Species-rich   neutral   grassland   is   now   very   scarce.      In   the   past,   much   of   the   grassland   in   Britain   on   free   draining   soils   would   have      been   like   this. However,   between   the   1930s   and   1980s,   97%   of   this   habitat   was   lost,   mainly   to   intensive   agricultural   improvement   and   development.   The   Parish Field is one of the best remaining examples in the Vale of Glamorgan. Species-rich   neutral   grassland   is   very   rich   in   plant   life,   and   can   support   as   many   as   30   species   of   plant      per   square   metre.   These   in   turn   provide food   for   large   numbers   of   insects,   birds   and   mammals.   By   comparison,   modern   agricultural   grassland   may   have   as   few   as   one   or   two   species   of plant   and      supports   few   insects   and   birds.   In   addition,   The   Parish   Field,   Cae’r   Rhedyn   SSSI   has   other      habitats   that   contribute   to   the   special wildlife interest. These include scrub and  hedgerows. This mixture of habitats is important for much of the wildlife. What do we want The Parish Field, Cae’r Rhedyn SSSI to look like?  The   following   is   a   description   of   how   we   would   like   to   see   the   grassland   at   The   Parish   Field,   Cae’r   Rhedyn   SSSI:      At   least   60%   of   the   field   is species-rich   grassland   with      a   range   of   typical   flowers,   including   common   knapweed,   common   bird’s-foot-trefoil,   yarrow   and   rough   hawkbit,   that make   up   a   colourful   display   during   the   summer.   The   majority   of   this   grassland   also   has   plants   associated   with   more   lime-rich   soils,   such   as lady’s   bedstraw,   yellow   oat-grass,   salad   burnet,   quaking   grass,   glaucous   sedge,   and   downy   oat-grass,   together   with   common   rock-rose   which   is quite   scarce   in   this   area.   In   places,   there   are   plants   that   prefer   more   acidic   soil,   including   tormentil,   betony,   devil’s-bit   scabious,   burnet   saxifrage and   the   locally   rare   moonwort,   a   type   of   grassland   fern.   Plants   indicating   disturbance,   nutrient   enrichment   or   under-grazing,   such   as   rye-grass, thistles,   docks,   nettles,   creeping   buttercup   and   coarse   grasses,   such   as   cock’s-foot   and   false   oat-grass,   are   generally   scarce.   There   are   no   areas   of muddy   or   bare   ground   away   from   gateways.   Overgrown   hedges,   bracken   and   scrub   are   present   around   the   edges   of   the   field   but   these   cover   no more than 30% of the site in total and are not encroaching into the species-rich grassland areas. What management is needed on The Parish Field, Cae’r Rhedyn SSSI, and why? Although   The   Parish   Field,   Cae’r   Rhedyn   SSSI   is   an   excellent   place   for   wildlife,   it   is   not   ‘natural’.   In   fact   it   is   the   product   of   decades,   or   even centuries   of   management.   It   will   be   essential   to   continue   management,   and   CCW’s   priority   is   to   work   with   you   to   achieve   this.   We   place   a   great importance   on   our   relationships   with   owners   and   occupiers,   because   without   your   help,   it   will   be   impossible   for      us   to   safeguard   the   special features on your land.  What does this mean in practice? There   is   some   management   that   is   essential   to   conserve   the   special   features.      Other   management   actions   could   damage   the   features   within   a   very short time. These are the ones we regard as the most important:  Grazing      is   very   important.   It   allows   lots   of      different   plants   to   grow   together,   and   prevents   one   or   two   species   of   plant   from   taking   over   the grassland,   or   even   the   grassland   turning   into   scrub   and   woodland.   Light   grazing,   preferably   by   cattle   alone,   or   by   a   combination   of   horses      and cattle   is   the   best   to   maintain   the   grassland.   If   possible,   grazing   should   be   limited   to   between   about   May   and   September.   The   ground   should   not be   allowed   to   become   poached.   The   aim   of   the   grazing   will   be   to   produce      a   sward   that   is   about   5   –   20cm   (2   –   8   inches)   high   at   the   end   of   the summer.         Hay   cutting   is   an   alternative   to   summer   grazing,   to   prevent   the   coarser   species   dominating   the   sward.   If   the   grassland   is   cut,   the   cut material   should   be   removed   to   prevent   it   smothering   the   grassland.   Some   limited   grazing   after   the   hay   is   cut   (known   as   ‘aftermath   grazing’)   by cattle   or   horses   is   advisable,   as   this   helps   to   break   up   the   turf   to   provide   opportunities   for   seedlings   to   germinate,   and   limits   the   spread   of   scrub. The      use   of   modern   fertilisers   and   other   chemicals   at   The   Parish   Field,   Cae’r   Rhedyn   SSSI   can   be   very   harmful   to   the   species-rich   grassland.   This is   because   they   stimulate   the   growth   of   one   or   two   grass   species   at   the   expense   of   the   many   different   plants   we   are   trying   to   encourage.   Once these   fertilisers   have   been   used   on   land,   it   is   very   hard   to   get   rid   of   them,   and   it   may   not   be   possible   to   restore   the   grasslands   for   years,   if   ever.     Occasional   light   applications   of   well-rotted   farmyard   manure   may   be   possible   if   the   grassland   is   cut   for   hay,   but   no   inorganic   fertilizers   should   be used.   Scrub   and   bracken   encroachment   can   be   a   problem   on   grasslands   of   this   type.   If   grazing   alone   is   not   sufficient   to   prevent   the   spread   of bracken and scrub into the important grassland areas, then cutting, and possibly also the use of chemicals, may be necessary from time to time. Conclusion: Our   knowledge   of   wildlife   is   continually   improving.   It   is   possible   that   new   issues   may   arise   in   the   future,   whilst   other   issues   may   disappear.   This statement   is   written   with   the   best   information   we   have   now,   but   may      have   to   change   in   the   future   as   our   understanding   improves.   Any information      you   can   provide   on   the   wildlife   of   your   site,   its   management   and   its   conservation   would   be   much   appreciated.   If   you   would   like   to discuss any aspect of your SSSI, or have any concerns about your SSSI, please contact your local CCW office. Countryside Council for Wales Unit 7, Castleton Court Fortran Road St Mellons Cardiff CF3 OLT Telephone:  02920772400   Fax:  02920772412
Photopgraph by Steve White
The Parish field photographed by Steve White