This is a delightful unimproved meadow on the edge of the Ashdown Forest, on the outskirts of the village of Fairwarp. Meadows are now a rare habitat in Britain, with over 97% lost over the last 70 years as grasslands have been improved through re-seeding with faster growing grasses, applications of fertiliser, and ploughing up for crops. Meadows have traditionally been managed by taking a hay cut in the summer and then aftermath grazing with cattle or by light grazing throughout the summer, which helps prevent some of the coarser grasses taking over and allows fine-leaved grasses and wildflowers to proliferate.
Brickfield Meadow has been managed in this traditional manner for many years and so remains wildflower-rich, supporting many characteristic Wealden meadow plants. In 2016 it was designated as a Local Wildlife Site in recognition of the quality of the meadow. A mixture of grasses such as Common Bent, Sweet Vernal-Grass and Crested Dog’s-tail are present alongside flowering species such as Common Knapweed, Greater and Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Creeping Buttercup. Several species only found in unimproved grassland are also present such as Betony, Dyer’s Greenweed, Devil’s-bit Scabious, Bitter-vetch and Zigzag Clover. There are also damp areas of the meadow, indicated by species such as Marsh Thistle, Oval Sedge and Sharp-flowered Rush. Mature hedgerows surround the meadow on three sides and a small stream crosses part of the field. This area supports a different flora from the main part of the field as it has developed into a mixed copse of Oak, Birch, Sallow and Alder and is used by many breeding birds.
In the summer, the meadow is alive with insects making use of all the nectar sources and butterflies, bees, beetles and hoverflies are all common sightings. One of the specialities of the meadow is the Chimney Sweeper moth. This is one of the best places in Sussex to see them as they are confined to a few places where their foodplant, Pignut, grows.
We continue to manage the meadow in a traditional manner, cutting in the summer and using our own cattle and sheep to graze lightly later in the year, although we like to leave an area un-managed each year to allow invertebrates to complete their life cycle.