Managing the meadow at an inner-city wildflower haven
White Rock is a wonderful place to discover, right in the heart of Copperopolis in Swansea. It is the site of one of the oldest Copper Works in Swansea, established in 1736, and was one of the most important works for copper smelting in the Lower Swansea Valley.
Now, hidden under encroaching vegetation, there is an amazing array of old canal tunnels and furnaces to be found, and a ‘Friends of White Rock’ group are working hard with CADW and Swansea Council to restore the site.
A few years ago, a few members of the ‘Friends’ group contacted the Wildlife Trust for advice on how they could restore the area while causing as little damage as possible to the wildlife which now lives or forages at White Rock. This includes Bats, Otters, Kingfishers and a multitude of birds. You can even see a Seal on the river occasionally!
One of the most exciting areas of White Rock for us as a Wildlife Trust, was the old spoil heap, which forms a spiral tump in the centre of the site. In the summer, this tump is covered in wildflowers, including Bee Orchids and Oxeye Daisies and a large coverage of Kidney Vetch, the food plant of the declining Small Blue butterfly.
Our advice for the management of the tump was to treat it as a wildflower meadow. This means cutting as if the arisings were going for hay, in late August or early September.
If the cut material is left on the soil, it will rot down and enrich the nutrients. When soil is enriched, grasses, brambles and nettles find it easier to grow and out-compete the wildflowers, leading to a much reduced species diversity. This year, the tump was cut, but unfortunately, all the cuttings were left on the ground.
Working with the Friends of White Rock group, staff and volunteers from the Wildlife Trust pitched in to help rake off the cuttings to help avoid enriching the soil on the tump.
It was a hard days work, but the team work was enjoyed by all and it will be worth it to see a spectacular display of wildflowers at White Rock again next year.