Late Summer into early Autumn is the perfect time to explore Antony estate's stunning woodland as the trees change their hues from green, yellow, auburn and brown. It's a glorious sight to behold.
Antony has recently had the grass in the rides in the woodland garden cut. These are large, open, rectilinear areas of grass, which give views from Antony House down to the estuary of the River Lynher and beyond. They are maintained as meadows, yet many wildflowers grow throughout the rides, including bluebells, primroses, celandine, and early purple orchids.
Our management of the meadow areas in the garden is fairly basic. We start cutting meadows in June and the process usually goes on until October. In an ideal world, we would remove all cuttings, but unfortunately, it's not practical to collect all of these arisings. This is a hundred-acre garden with some large areas of grass and, in many places, meadows and woodland run into each other. So, out of necessity, we have a fairly broad brush approach.
The Rides, however, where we are able to deploy larger machinery are our main focus for wildflowers. They are cut in mid-August with the arisings being removed. It is important to do this as it helps to reduce the fertility of the soil and allows the wildflowers to better compete with the grass, which in a very fertile soil would soon dominate; along with pernicious weeds such as docks.
The mowing, haymaking, and baling are done by a local farmer who then removes the bales as food for livestock. Haymaking, where the grass is cut, left to dry and turned on the ground over three to five a day period is the most wildlife-friendly management. It allows ripe seeds to fall to the ground and provides time for wildlife to move from the cut field. Wildflower meadows are important habitats that support a variety of insect life. They provide pollinators and other insects with food from leaves, pollen and nectar, as well as shelter and places to breed.
Although they are an artificial, man-made landscape, meadows have developed over centuries as a result of traditional farming practices. Each small farm would have grown a few crops and had permanent pasture for grazing and meadows for hay that were cut and stored to feed the livestock over winter. Management followed an annual cycle of growing in spring and summer, cutting in late summer and grazing in winter. Much of our native wildlife has gradually adapted and evolved with these landscapes.
One other idea that we're trying is sewing Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) in the rides. This is an annual which completes its lifecycle in one year. In early spring, the seeds germinate and grow quickly. As their roots develop underground, they seek out the roots of plants growing nearby, especially grasses. The Yellow Rattle then draws water and nutrients from grasses, suppressing their growth by as much as 60%, allowing other flowers the space to grow. We have so far successfully introduced Yellow Rattle in two of the rides with more to follow.
Find your own peace at Antony Woodland Garden this year. Treat yourself, a friend or relative to a Single or Family Season Ticket at one of Cornwalls’ most special gardens. It will allow the giftee to enjoy all the beauty of the garden until 31st October 2023 and the Woodland Walk throughout the whole year.