Frances Weeks of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust reveals why Hereford's Lugg Meadow is such a rich haven for wildlife. This report first appeared in the Hereford Times OnePlanet environment pull-out, which is published monthly

LUGG Meadow is one of Hereford’s treasures: a rare surviving floodplain meadow of historic and botanical significance and a much-loved and visited green space on the edge of the city.

Ownership of the meadow is divided between a number of different organisations and individuals, including Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, and a number of local residents hold historic common rights, such as the right to graze from Lammas Day on August 12 to Candlemas on February 2.

The meadow is designated as a site of special scientific interest and home to a wealth of wildlife.

Hereford Times: Curlew by John BridgesCurlew by John Bridges

Otters and kingfishers are regularly spotted along the river and, in spring, the rare snake’s head fritillary blooms across the meadow.

Another species still heard, and occasionally seen here is the curlew – though numbers have declined steeply.

However, we were thrilled to see one curlew chick fledge successfully from Lower Lugg meadow this year.

While a small number of curlews continue to nest here annually, it has been several years since a chick made it this far.

Hereford Times: Snake-head fritillaries on Lugg Meadow. Picture: Sarah CurtisSnake-head fritillaries on Lugg Meadow. Picture: Sarah Curtis

It is wonderful that despite the pressures of the modern world, this population holds on here on the edge of the city, especially as the curlew is one of our most rapidly declining breeding bird species nationally showing a 46 per cent decline across the UK from 1994-2010* (*British Trust for Ornithology).

Because of this iconic bird, public access has been restricted to the Lower Lugg Meadow and Hampton Meadow during their breeding season for some years and these restrictions have now been extended to 2026.

In mid-August, trainees Kath Beasley and Sarah King conducted a bat survey at Lugg Meadow and recorded 57 fly-bys of Daubenton’s bats – a great result considering they had to call the survey off near the end because of bad weather!

Hereford Times: Little egrets on Lugg Meadow, Hereford. Picture: Sarah CurtisLittle egrets on Lugg Meadow, Hereford. Picture: Sarah Curtis

To record the bats, they walked a 1km transect of the meadow, stopping for four minutes at 10 points and recording any calls of a Daubenton’s bat using a bat detector.

In September, a grassland restoration project: the Meadow Makers project, in partnership with Herefordshire Meadows, begins at Lugg Mills, an eight-acre island formed by the confluence of the Lugg and Little Lugg at the north end of Upper Lugg Meadow.

This is to increase the number of species of wildflower and grasses which, in turn, will benefit pollinating insects such as bumblebees and butterflies as well as all manner of other invertebrates and small mammals.

Hereford Times: Daubenton's bat. Picture: Dale SuttonDaubenton's bat. Picture: Dale Sutton

In preparation for this, we have been conducting bumblebee and plant surveys at the reserve so that we can compare data once the work is completed and monitor the success of the project.

This autumn, we have planted small ‘plug plants’ of wildflower species including great burnet, ox-eye daisy, meadowsweet, tufted vetch and birds-foot trefoil.

We have also spread yellow rattle seed, a wildflower known as the 'meadow maker’ as it is semi-parasitic on grasses and so weakens them, allowing other less vigorous wildflowers to flourish.

In October and November, the volunteer group have been working hard in the adjacent Baynton Wood, cutting back vegetation to create clearer pathways for walkers.

Hereford Times: Sarah King, trainee community engagement officer with Herefordshire Wildlife TrustSarah King, trainee community engagement officer with Herefordshire Wildlife Trust

We continue to try to keep on top of the litter-picking in the area too, and huge thanks to all those members of the public who help with this when they visit.

As a floodplain meadow, the reserve can be made inaccessible as the water rises over winter so do visit now for a quiet autumn walk – and please remember that livestock are currently grazing the site over the autumn, so do keep dogs on a lead.