FoEP: Improving the Park for the benefit of the whole community
Click pictures for larger view.
A recent statement issued by the Wildlife Trusts points out that, in just over a hundred years, the UK has lost 97% of its lowland meadows along with the beautiful wildflowers, insects, birds and mammals they supported.
Within Eastfield Park, however, there is a large area of lowland meadow occupying an area south-west of the Lake as shown in the following screen capture from the County Council's interactive map.
It seems likely that this area was never 'improved' by the addition of fertilisers and herbicides and much of it retains its species-rich character. Unfortunately, the MUGA (Multi-Use Games Area) and the 'Eastfield Monster' Play Mound were build over part of the area, destroying its ecological value. Nevertheless, between the play mound and the Lake is an area rich in meadow flowers.
The set-aside areas for 2019 are similar to those marked out in 2018 (see diagram below):
Set-aside A is approximately 60m x 30m. Part of this rectangle is being set aside for the fourth consecutive year. However, the first set-aside in this location (in 2016) extended further under the trees to the south and did not extend nearly so far to the west. When the area was surveyed in August 2016 by Matt Johnson and Nathalie Hueber from the local Wildlife Trust, they found an impressive list of eight grasses and nineteen wildflowers. Most of these were found in the northern unshaded part of the area; the shaded area under the trees was poor in comparison. In 2017, the set-aside was therefore shortened north to south but extended east to west. In 2018, the area was extended even further to the west but, to prevent the set-aside from being too much of a hindrance to walkers, diagonal paths were cut through it. Only a limited assessment of the area could be carried out in 2018, so the area marked out for 2019 is roughly the same.
Set-aside B is approximately 20m x 20m. It was marked out for the first time in 2018 as an experimental area to determine if the species rich area extends that far to the east. Because of the limited assessment of the area in 2018, the same area has been marked out for 2019.
On Monday, 11th March 2019, Rob Mason, a member of the Friends of Bradlaugh Fields and a keen and responsible drone flyer, flew a drone over part of Eastfield Park and took a number of aerial photographs of the Lake. Two of these are shown below. Rob was helping the FoEP consider how we might use drone photography to enhance the management of the park. (Please note that you need NBC's permission to fly a drone over a Northampton park.)
If the area is regularly mowed, these wild flowers never get the chance to bloom. The Friends of Eastfield Park therefore arrange for plots within the area to be 'set aside' from the normal mowing regime. Instead of the grass being cut regularly through spring and summer it is left until July, or even as late as September, before it is cut. This gives the plants a chance to produce flowers which then attract a range of bees, butterflies and other insects.
Set-aside C, close to Eleonore House, was originally planned to provide a comparison with the adjacent semi-circular sown meadow. It is now hoped to convert the sown meadow into a planted wildflower garden and the future of the set-aside is now in doubt. Nevertheless, it does provide a good habitat for animals, including amphibians, so it may be kept for that reason.
The main set-aside area in August 2016. This area overlaps with 2019's Set-aside Area A.
It is hoped that, with help from the local Wildlife Trust, all three areas will again be surveyed in July or August this year. The survey results will be reported here on our website or on our Facebook page and a written report submitted to the Eastfield Park Management Committee.
a picture showing how people enjoyed Eastfield Park before it became Eastfield Park!
Numerous garden parties and fetes were held in the grounds of Weston Favell House and, later, Eastfield House. This is the land that eventually became our wonderful Eastfield Park!