The Ecology of Berryhill Fields

Berryhill Grassland

The present day landscape and ecology of the Fields has been formed through centuries of industrial and agricultural activities. The site was farmed until the 1950’s and the last remaining industrial scar, the Mossfield spoil heap, was levelled in 1973. From then the site naturally regenerated into the ecology of today.

The Fields are basically a semi improved grassland habitat with areas of scrub (mainly goat willow, silver birch and rowan) and remnants of old hedgerow of hawthorn, blackthorn and holly. Other pockets of plants include heathland type with heather, bilberry and tormentil and large areas of orchids. The orchids are found mainly on the site of the old spoil heap where common spotted and bee orchids are scattered amongst hundreds of common spotted/southern marsh hybrids. These stand erect within the grass and have attractive flower heads ranging from pink to deep purple.

Clovers, vetches and trefoils attract a variety of insect life as do the meadow flowers such as knapweed, lady’s smock and scabious. The diverse plant life with its associated invertebrates and small mammals provide food for birds and other animals. These fragile, but vital, food chains are only possible through the Fields never being subjected to wholesale use of pesticides.

The main beneficiaries of this diversity are the birds and mammals. Five species of warbler, including the uncommon grasshopper warbler, breed alongside nationally threatened farmland species such as grey partridge, snipe and skylark. Skylarks epitomise the Fields, delivering their songs even on cold, windy winter days with the freedom that the Fields offer. Mammals include nationally protected water vole, brown hare and pipistrelle bats.

The current wildlife is depends on the present ecology, therefore sensitive managing of the Fields will be crucial. No management will mean tree species will soon take over the site, to the detriment of all ground living species. So, a detailed management regime is in place ensuring the skylarks continue to lift the spirits of the visitor.