This delightful and secluded area, comprising flood meadows, hedges and reed-filled ditches next to the Little Ouse river in the parish of Garboldisham, at the western end of the LOHP project area, was purchased by the LOHP in 2010. We called the 5.7ha site Scarfe Meadows in memory of David Scarfe, its late owner. The purchase was funded by donors to the LOHP's River Link Appeal and donations from LOHP members. Restoration of the site is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Ditch restoration work in 2011 © A. Rivett
The LOHP is maintaining the traditional cattle grazing management regime on the meadows, managing the grazing pressure to create a grassland structure that will encourage breeding waders such as lapwing, snipe and redshank. New field gates have been installed and the barbed wire fences will be replaced by high quality stock fencing later this year. Although the meadows have not received fertiliser inputs for many years, the grassland has been agriculturally improved through past re-seeding and applications of broad-leaved herbicides. As a result it has lost many of its wildflower species; restoration of flower-rich grassland is an exciting, but more long-term objective for this site.
The ditches, with transitional fen habitat at their margins, have huge potential for wildlife. In the past they have been fenced off from the fields but, to provide a gradation from wet grassland to open water, and to improve the landscape quality of the marsh, the fences are being progressively removed. At the same time, the aquatic habitats are being improved and maintained through rotational slubbing-out and re-profiling of the ditches.
The old hedges bordering the meadows provide shelter and nest sites for many songbirds, including linnets, yellowhammer and whitethroat. However, they too are in need of restoration management. Many of the hedgerow shrubs are overgrown and there are gaps in the rows, so the hedges no longer provide the dense cover needed to shelter nesting birds and many species of invertebrates. Our management will ensure a return to a dense structure but reduce the height of the hedges so that they do not deter nesting waders by providing look-out posts for carrion crows, which are a major nest predator.
Male yellowhammer © A. Rivett
The 'little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese' song of the brilliant male yellowhammer was once a feature of most hedgerows in the English countryside. But like many farmland birds its numbers have declined massively since the mid 1980s. It is now 'red listed' and a Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. Yellowhammers feed on grass and weed seeds in winter and invertebrates in summer; the old hedgerow bounding Scarfe Meadows provides them with ideal song posts and nesting cover.
In the past there has been no public access to the site, although a public footpath runs along the northern boundary and provides excellent views over the meadows. The meadows are now open to the public via a wide-access kissing gate at their eastern end. Later in 2012 a new access point will be installed at their western end to create a walk along the length of the site, linked with the public footpath.
This site is cattle-grazed and is an important area for wading birds: please keep dogs under close control at all times and on a short lead when cattle are present and during the bird breeding season. A beef bull is sometimes grazed with the cows on Scarfe Meadows and the fields beyond through which the public footpath runs. Notices will be displayed on the gates when the bull is in Scarfe Meadows.