Swettenham Meadows, Sandbach
Swettenham Meadows Nature Reserve is owned and managed by Cheshire Wildlife Trust. This site is situated on the picturesque, steep sided slopes of the Swettenham Valley and forms one of two sites the Trust manages within the valley. The reserve comprises a mosaic of habitats including; broadleaved woodland, scrub, swamp and species rich grassland, the latter being the most valuable conservation feature of the site. The composition and structure of the grassland is remarkably variable across the site reflecting the variable underlying soil conditions through the valley. The result is an abundance of wildflowers that provide a bounty of pollen and nectar throughout the spring and summer.
The surrounding land use has changed in recent years with a switch to maize production and the abandonment of management altogether on some of the more inaccessible land. Consequently, the species rich grassland of the Swettenham Valley is under threat. This is one of the reasons why the Trust decided to put an area of the reserve forward as a receptor site for the Coronation Meadows project. The area selected was a 2.5 hectare site on the edge of the reserve which was far less species rich than the rest of the site.
Ground preparation consisted of weed control in the form of spot spraying using a selective herbicide and topping followed by power harrowing which created roughly 70% bare ground. Following this in the last week of July 2016 a zero grazing mower was used to harvest a crop of green hay off roughly two thirds of the donor meadow. The material was then spread over this site and another site nearby using a rear discharge muck spreader. The area of the donor site we left uncut was subsequently revisited at the end of August/early September and, with the help of the Trust’s brush harvester, seed from later flowering species was collected. It is hoped that this approach will help in establishing as broader range of species as possible.