Spring Field and Long Meadow
These two are the best wildflower meadows at Seven Fields, over 200 species of flowers, grasses, etc., grow throughout the year. The meadows are cut for hay once a year, in late summer and the hay is taken away, this means that the meadows are not enriched and allows the weaker species of wildflower to bloom freely. Mid summer is the best time to see the meadows when they are an array of Ox Eye Daises, Vetches, Ladies Bedstraw, Yellow Rattle, Scabious, Restharrow and Marsh, Pyramidal and Bee Orchids. Each year something new is discovered. But any time is interesting, from March with the first blooms of the Coltsfoot, through summer to Autumn when the northern slopes become the focus of wildlife activity and the hedgerows full of fruit and colour, on cold frosty winters days, when the branches and cobwebs glisten with frost and wet days when they hang with rain droplets. Many variety of Butterfly and Moths, Brimstone, Marbled White, Common Blue and several species of Skippers make these fields worth a visit. Grasshoppers, Voles, Weasels, Badger and Foxes, the occasional Roe Deer and a rare Dotterel have all been spotted. Occasionally Heron, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel can be seen overhead along with ground feeding Birds, such as Redwing, Thrush and Blackbirds on the meadow.
Though not so interesting as the other meadows, Lark Meadow wants to revert to the Hawthorn Thicket it probably was in the past, this can be clearly seen by the growth of Hawthorn alongside the bridle track, which came naturally when the hay was not taken from that part of the field. The Spinneys along the length of the Yellow Brick Road were planted by the Borough, with those on the rest of the fields in the early 1980’s when the plan was to turn Seven Fields into a ‘park’. The autumn beauty of these Spinneys go some way to recompense for the loss of the precious meadow beneath. The Green Woodpecker can often be seen in the trees to the left of the Yellow Brick Road, Robins and Wrens particularly like the Spinneys and hedgerows.
New Path – Northern Banks – The Trenches
In 1989 the Seven Fields Conservation Group and friends planted 2000 trees and shrubs along the slopes, and realised the potential for the existing ‘desire line’ which could not be used during summer – because of the nettles and brambles – and in winter because of the mud. The group cleared the route from the Leigh Road Allotments to the rear of Minety Road, Penhill and the Borough laid the lime dust path in 1990, The spring and summer following produced some surprises, instead of just brambles and nettles, many other varieties of wildflower appeared, Opium Poppy, several species of thistles. Campion etc., these have not flourished so readily in the following years, but the walk is still very pleasant, and the trees planted have done very well. Long Tailed Tits and Gold Finches feed on the burdocks and hedgerows, Foxes regularly cross the path, even in daylight. The contours of the bank are an important wildlife habitat, and the nettle and bramble attract butterflies and many varieties of beneficial insects. (Even rank nettles supports 19 types of wildlife!) The path enables many more people to use the area at all times of the year and in all weathers.
Event Field/Cemetery Field
Event Field, the importance of this meadow has also been recognised, and now that Seven Fields has received the Statutory Designation of Local Nature Reserve, it was felt inappropriate to provide space for events. Each year a football pitch size is cut to enable local youngsters to play ball games and provide room for picnicking. These fields were originally set aside as an extension to the cemetery, but it was discovered that four feet below the surface is a solid slab of limestone, and a layer of water, moving gradually toward the Haydon Brook – a small overhang can been seen from the Bridle Path, and the Lime Stone forms a waterfall where Lark Meadow joins the Playing Field. An early Orchid has been spotted in both fields. The fields abut the Whitworth Road Cemetery which is well maintained to attract wildlife. On the site of the car park there was a Sewage Farm.
Haydon Brook rises near the junction of the Bridle Track and Whitworth Road, joined by another rising from under the Cemetery and is fed by land water from the surrounding estates runs westwardly eventually to the River Ray and then the Thames. Its banks are rich with plant life including Figwort, Garlic Mustard and Wild Angelica. Stickle backs, Voles, frogs can be seen.
Underwood and The Seeds
Now lost to housing development, however all hedgerows, considered valuable, were retained as wildlife corridors.
Penhill Copse/Parish Boundary Hedgerow
From the Copse to the Kissing Gate is the Old Parish Boundary Hedgerow, containing a wide variety of trees, shrubs and ground flora indicating its antiquity, especially on its western hedge towards the development at Abbey Meads, Towards the Kissing Gate are rare small leaved lime trees.
What a Field!. Everyone should feel privileged to walk across it. Examples of well preserved and prominent relict medieval landscape such as this Ridge and Furrow Field are now very rare, which is why it has been saved as Open Space. The widths of the Furrows indicate that the last time this field was ploughed was with an Ox-drawn Plough, not used in this country for over 200 years. The field has an interesting species diversity between the ridge and furrows and it is the field in which you can be sure to see the spring flowers of Cowslips and Cuckoo Flowers. Ground Burrowing Bees live in the meadow and the Ancient Edge Hedgerows which surround this fields, were not planted, but are part of the forest which once covered this area, left from time immemorial by the ancients to mark the boundary of their land and to protect their stock. The hedgerows are the nesting place of Long Tailed Tits and the Silk Puss Moth, Burnet moths live on the hedgerow edge Thistles, whilst the hedgerow is patrolled by Ringlet and Gatekeeper butterflies. In the Hedgerow is the magnificent Wild Service Tree (Sorbus Torminalis). This is the biggest and oldest specimen of this tree in the county and is unusual in that it is not hidden in the depths of a forest. The Service tree will no longer self-seed as it belongs to a time when the climate was warmer – it is now too cold for the seed to germinate. There are suckers to be seen on the ‘Chequers’ side of the hedge. The hedgerow has many more species of shrub and tree than the more common hedge planted a the time of the enclosure laws of the 18th Century. Unfortunately the planners saw fit to rather than leave it for it to mature naturally, plant it with 5,500 imported wildflowers which have not taken as the field is not in the right condition. A rare Sawfly lives on the Meadowsweet in this field. Please respect this field – the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust describes it as a gem. It is historically and educationally valuable, connecting us all with our cultural past.
Before the planners allowed this to become an informal play area and drainage work was implemented, this interesting little field had not been managed as the others and proved a valuable exception to the rule of Hay Meadow Management. It had not returned to scrub as would be expected, but flowered year after year with the wildflowers herbs, of Self Heal, Ladies Bed Straw and Meadowsweet. In the Hedgerows are a Pear tree and an Apple tree. Local legend says that there was once a cottage in this field, and the presence of the fruit trees and the character of the predominant herbs substantiates the legend. A cottage garden of yesteryear would have been a place to grow what was needed in the household – Self Heal for wounds, Ladies Bedstraw to stuff the mattress and Meadow Sweet to purify the air of the cottage. However in mediaeval times, local people also planted their fruit trees in the hedgerow. This meadow had a most glorious smell of its own in summer months, and a mystical quality which is now sadly lost. The Fruit trees can still be seen.
Chequers and Twin Ponds
Now a cycle way and play area, Twin Ponds (Elsham Way) surface had ridge and furrow contours, not nearly so deep as Furrow Field, these were caused by the old method of dividing a field into Furlongs, each of which would be worked by one man, very much like our leisure gardens of today, except in those days their livelihood depended upon it. ‘Chequers’ is named for the Wild Service Tree, Chequers being its folk name, it is believed that this is because the seeds have a chequered appearance, there are many theories about the name. The whole area is alive with Springs, disappearing in dry weather and then sometimes reappearing in a different place. At the corner of Penhill Copse is a Spring which has only dried up once for very short time in living memory.
Bridle Track and Half Moon Ground
Along the bottom of Half Moon Ground is the Bridle Path, described in documents dated 1796 as a Bridle Road and Footpath 15 ft wide. By the Kissing Gate at the Westerly end are a row of Crack Willow, before they were pollarded a walk on a windy day helped discover why they are so called, and they often ‘cracked’ and shed branches. On the other side of the Kissing Gate, in Greenmeadow were once twin ponds, now filled in and built upon.