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Author Topic: Wildflowers vs sheep - suggestions on our 6 acre plot in South Wales!  (Read 873 times)

Harriet Fernandes

  • Joined Mar 2024
Hello everyone! Would love some advice from you guys who have experience with this. We have just moved onto a 6-8 acre smallholding in South Wales with our two young kids. Its been exciting and fun and very chaotic, its a big change for us and brand new area. We have so many plans for the site, but at the moment have work to do on the house and are also doing up the annexe part of house in order to rent out for some extra income. That is our priority for the next 2/3 months (and were doing all the work ourselves, so its a big job for us! We have lots of experience in construction though :) ) SO my question is, in terms of the land - theres 4 large paddocks (probs 3 acres in total approx) and the rest is woodland. The previous owners had tups in the paddocks (they are all fenced) from the local farmer who cut their hedges for them in return. But the kids would not be able to go into fields with them as apparently they were quite feisty. We are also kind of thinking wed like to manage it all ourselves whilst were figuring it all out without getting someone else involved so early on (we havent even been here a week yet!) Wed love to keep bits wild and maybe have a wildflower meadow and have paths for the kids to run through. Were not interested in keeping the grass down but have also been told if it gets left too long then its tricky to manage with a mower (the owner left us his ride on which weve done a bit on one of the paddocks but it was pretty difficult to get through) and also the sheep wont eat the longer grass thats been left, not to mention thistles etc! Is that true? Is it difficult to manage if we left it wild and mowed paths throughout this summer whilst we make plans. I know more and more people are leaving it to grow and create habitats for wildlife etc which is our vibe, but I dont want to end up in a pickle in the Autumn and have to get someone in to get it all back down again! Sorry for the crazy long post - we are brand new to this! Thanks so much in advance :) 

sandspider

  • Joined Aug 2015
  • Bristol
I don't have any sheep so can't advise on that. But I do have a paddock, and a wildflower meadow. The meadow grass doesn't get too long as I'm reducing the fertility, but I still have a little tractor and topper to cut it when needed, once a year or so. Could be done with a strimmer or scythe, but would take a while - and it's not a big meadow. Quite a bit of my paddock I leave fairly wild, and mow paths in it. The grass paths that are regularly ish mown (once a month or two maybe) are quite nice grass, short, green and manageable. The bits that aren't mown get quite brambly, scrubby, brackeny and blackthorny. I don't mind this at all, happy to leave some room for nature. Having said that, I do cut the scrub bits with the tractor and topper (or occasionally a hand strimmer, but a big 52CC machine with a blade) every so often, once a year or every other year maybe, to keep some level of control. I cut them in patches, not all at once, so there's always some scrub and a mix of habitats around.

If you don't have machinery of some sort, or time to strim, scythe etc. you'd probably be better cutting paths through it for now, or keeping on top of it in some way. Long, scrubby grass is hard to cut and a domestic lawn mower won't touch it.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
First thing - beware of 'good will' agreements such as 'I'll graze my sheep/horses/cattle on your land and in return I'll cut your hedges'. There's a reason many legal agricultural agreements are for a day short of a year so nobody gets grandfather rights on your land.  You are right that children and tups absolutely do not mix, so now is the time to stop that agreement.  That leaves the problem of who is going to cut your hedges, but wildlife hedges are cut only once every three years in rotation nowadays so they can become taller and bushier for nesting birds.  What you really don't want is someone else having an influence on how you manage your land because you will have your way and they will have theirs. If you have someone else's animals on your land you have no control of how they worm them or their general welfare, which can become a bone of contention. 
We had problems when we bought a field from a neighbour who thought he could still tell us how to use it, forbid us to remove a gate, forbid us to plant a hedge, drive his tractor through it and so on, and this was someone with whom we were friends, so we thought!
Just tell the chap with the tups that you're sorry but you have other plans for the land.


For the paddocks, you will be almost certain to get a few animals eventually, but take your time to decide.  This will give your land a year or two to clear itself of any parasites from the tups which have been grazing it (incidentally free range hens are good at clearing herbivore worms from pasture and hens are great for children to start with)


Grass which has been left to grow long in the summer is wonderful for children to run and roll about in, with a lovely variety of grass seed heads blowing in the wind, depending on the original mix sown - not every meadow has flowers.


Machinery - you will end up buying some, perhaps a tractor and hay mower, a hedging attachment or you could get a thing called an Allen scythe which is a small powered implement with a cutter bar at the front which you walk behind and it can deal with long grass, brambles, nettles and so on.  Long grass only needs cutting once a year, paths as often as you would cut your lawn.


My advice is not to take any major decisions quickly.  Take a year to learn about your land, where it's wet, where it's dry, which way the worst winds blow, frost pockets, where the thistles are, if there are any wild flowers which appear when you leave the grass uncut, what the soil is like and where would be best to grow veggies, which areas are shaded/sheltered by the woodland, where past owners have dumped their rubbish to make a no-go area. You will be able to experience the local climate for a full year which will give you some idea of whether you can look forward to sunshine, rain, snow, high winds and so on.
As I mentioned you will be almost certain to get a few animals at some point, if only for the children, but take your time, don't rush in and get some of everything, as 3 acres is not much ground once animals are involved.
I can't advise on a wildflower meadow as mine hasn't really worked out  ::)  but many  meadow mixes are generic, whereas once you have your own land you are likely to want wild flowers local to your area.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2024, 01:37:04 am by Fleecewife »
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

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Bywaters

  • Joined Apr 2016
Consider making hay after the flowers have seeded; late july August (weather permitting)
That gets rid of the long grass lying about and could keep your farmer friendly if you pay him for making the hay and/or an income should you wish to sell it

Please don't do nothing with it !

There are lots of little areas (some big on sides of hills) that used to be farmed and are now scrub, as the modern machinery can't get into the gateways etc etc. I grieves me to see all this scrub land when I am losing 7 acres of my council rented land , that I have had for nearly 30 years, because they "need" to plant trees on it. (I have tried to suggest that I can plant the trees for them and not on all the land, but to no avail) Rant over.

 

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