June 2023 - Folly Farm with Tim Curley

Ten AWT members were invited to Folly Farm on the 10th June, on a warm and sunny day. Although thunderstorms had been forecast, they didn't materialise to mar our day!

Folly Farm is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) owned by Avon Wildlife Trust; it was originally a “hobby farm” so the gentry could play at farming, but is now a 250 acre nature reserve including wildflower meadows, ancient woodland, scrubland and semi-improved grassland. Four hardy Exmoor ponies are there performing “conservation grazing”, although they were sensible enough to hide in the shady woodland near the stream during our walk.

Tim Curley, the Living Landscapes Manager, gave a very informative guided tour of the farm, enabling us to appreciate the wonderful wildflower meadows full of yellow rattle, common spotted orchid, goatsbeard, birds-foot trefoil, meadow geranium, knapweed and ox-eye daisies amongst many other flowers. These memorial meadows were featured in one of David Attenborough's “Wild Isles” episodes. They are cut every July for hay management, when the wildflower seeds are collected to benefit other farms that are starting these meadows. Hedgerows are left to “bleed” into the fields, so blurring the margins and introducing more plants into the mix.

The wonderful wildflower meadows
Common Spotted orchids
We didn't just notice the flowers however, there were also many birds flying around including a buzzard (being mobbed by crows), great tit, chiff-chaff, blackcap, green woodpecker, chaffinch, jay, wren and magpie. Invertebrates seen were meadow brown, speckled wood, common blue and brimstone butterflies, a scary (but apparently harmless!) false widow spider, bee-flies and white-tailed bumble-bees with full pollen baskets.
Speckled Wood butterfly
False Widow spider
We discussed the impact of Ash Dieback Disease and its effect on many woodland sites; here the dead and dying trees are left standing (unless they are by a path) so that the dead wood becomes home for birds and invertebrates. When they eventually fall, this creates clearings awaiting natural regeneration over time (ie the “see what comes back” policy!). 

We were shown entrances to the badger setts; they were as sensible as the ponies and, being nocturnal, stayed out of the summer sun. They behave similarly to pigs in the meadows, roughing up the soil while looking for earthworms, slugs and snails so enabling buried seeds to surface and germinate.

We all left with smiles on our faces, thank you Tim!

Liz Wintle
Photos by Dave Sage, Andrew Harrison & Rita Andrews

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Protecting wildlife for the future
Keynsham Group
Avon Wildlife Trust
Registered charity 280422

Email: keynshamawt@gmail.com