Different drainage and knobbly knees
The Upper Meadow feels quite private and secluded. The underlying clay soil restricts drainage, and the meadow has an ecosystem of ditches, small streams and damp areas.
The Upper Meadow has a completely different plant community from the Lower Meadow. The grassland is less varied but there is a range of water-loving grasses, rushes and sedges. To tell these wind pollinated plants apart, just remember the rhyme: “Sedges have edges, rushes are round, and grasses have knobbly knees”
Following the edge of this field is a mature hedgerow, probably several hundred years old. You can estimate the age of a hedgerow roughly by counting the number of species in a 30 metre length. One additional species means one century of growth. The hedgerow is like a very narrow woodland, providing a corridor for wildlife between the main woodlands and the surrounding area.
Hedgerows are a particularly important habitat. They mimic the woodland edge, and reflect all the stages in the development of a mature woodland. This can clearly be seen in the hedge along the eastern boundary with the scrub layer invading the open grassland and the larger trees growing up behind.
Hedgerow trees are also important as they provide a perch for songbirds, were they can be seen and heard easily by potential mates.
Woodland edge and rookery
On the south west edge of the Upper Meadow you can see three distinct levels of woodland. The Ancient Woodland is many centuries old, and its shape has not changed since the earliest Ordnance Survey maps. In the top of the tallest trees you can see the nests of a rookery, which has been there for almost a century at least. In summer the rooks will “skydance” above the Upper Meadow, performing acrobatics just to show off.
The lower trees in front of the Ancient Woodland are the Centenary Wood, planted to mark 100 years of Dodington Parish Council on Mother’s Day 1994, when local families planted 800 trees in a single morning. In front of that again is the Jubilee Hedge, planted in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Flowers and insects
The Upper Meadow has a good diversity of plant species with over sixty species of wildflowers, grasses, rushes and sedges being present in this meadow. Cuckoo flowers, also known as lady’s smocks and milk maids, appear in the wetter parts of this meadow in the spring. Later on in summer, distinctive colourful flowers such as the blue meadow cranesbill and the pink ragged robin can be seen. If you are lucky you may be able to find some common spotted orchids growing along the top hedge.
All those flowering plants, and also the hedges, support a good number of insects including butterflies and day flying moths such as the marbled white, small copper, small heath and burnet companion.