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Grass field margins
While using the many public rights of way across farmland, you
may have noticed strips of grass growing beside a path or around
the edges of some fields. These have been introduced in recent
years as part of various environmental schemes available to
The farmers often get an annual payment to offset the cost of
providing and maintaining the margin as well as for the loss of
The field margins are a minimum of six feet seven inches (two
metres) wide. Typically they measure 19 feet eight inches (six
metres) and can be wider. They are most commonly sited beside
ditches, watercourses, ponds, hedges and woodland to provide the
most benefit to wildlife.
Fauna and flora
The vegetation is made up of various combinations of different
grasses and flowering plant species. This creates a new habitat for
invertebrates, small mammals, reptiles, insects and birds. There
are several species of butterfly that rely on grasses and vetches
as food plants for their caterpillars. Look out for Skippers,
Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers and some of the Blues. The margins
also enhance the wildlife value of any adjoining feature, such as a
hedge or ditch.
Another important benefit of the field margins is as a buffer
zone between normal farming operations and the main wildlife
habitats or hedgerows and watercourses. When crops are treated with
pesticides or fertilisers, the field margin provides valuable extra
distance, reducing the risk of watercourse contamination and making
the wildlife habitat a safer place for its inhabitants.
Benefit to wildlife
All environmental schemes have their rules and regulations. In
the case of field margins they must be a specific width for their
entire length. The timing, frequency and extent of the mowing or
cutting of the vegetation is controlled, as it is with hedges. It
can make the countryside look untidy and uncared for but it is
managed in this way to get the maximum benefit for wildlife.
Finally, buffer strips should not be used for regular access
(including public access), turning vehicles or storage, to avoid
damage to habitats.
Please go out and enjoy the countryside but try not to disturb
the areas created for all the diverse species we are privileged to
have around us.
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