Potwell Dyke Grasslands
The 1.72ha of the Potwell Dyke Grasslands are the last remaining remnants of the Archbishop of York’s deer park and hunting ground. Owned by the Southwell Minster Chapter they comprise mainly hay and wet meadow with smaller areas of marsh, ponds and semi-improved grassland, divided by ancient hedges and bordered in part by the Potwell Dyke. The designation of the grasslands as a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation (SINC) is due mainly to the variety of habitats found there and the underlying geology has some unusual aspects which contribute to the development of these habitats.
In 2004, in order to preserve this important site a 10 year Countryside Stewardship Agreement (CSA) was established between the Minster Chapter, the Town Council and DEFRA (now Natural England). The comprehensive Management Plan underlying the Agreement is delivered by a volunteer Action Group (PODGAG). The Plan continues under the current 10 year Agreement which commenced in 2014. PODGAG actively manages the site using traditional methods in order to maintain and enhance the diversity of plants, invertebrates, insects and wildlife generally.
PODGAG volunteers meet on two mornings each month and undertake work ranging from fence and hedge maintenance, putting up bird/bat boxes, pulling up invasive plants such as Ragwort and Himalayan Balsam or just clearing litter. Professional help is sought for mowing and baling and in the Autumn sheep keep the vegetation short, trample in the seeds and thereby aid their spread and germination.
Comprehensive flora and bird surveys are carried out by local volunteer ‘experts’ and these have identified over 200 plant and 44 bird species. The work on the site has resulted in a noticeable increase in the biodiversity of the grasslands with the flora types increasing and spreading. There are now 4 species of orchid where originally there was only Southern Marsh; in addition Bee, Pyramidal and Common Spotted orchids are now increasing in number. A start has recently been made to identify and record the large number of butterflies, moths and other insects on the site.
A requirement of the CSA is that informal public access is allowed on the site and in normal times school visits and those of certain ‘care’ groups occur. In addition guided walks are arranged, mainly during late Spring and early Summer when the cowslips, orchids and other wildflowers are at their most prolific. In Britain some 97% of traditional pasture and wet meadow have been destroyed over the last 50 years. All those involved with the grasslands are fully committed to the aspirations of conserving and enhancing the ecology of the site so that it will remain a very special haven of rare natural beauty for all to enjoy.
If you are interested in volunteering, would like to book a group visit (donations welcome) or require further information please email Tina Fofana PODGAG secretary or Paul Watson Chairman at PODGAGTeam@outlook.com alternatively call Mal on 07870 103789