Rushymeade

 

Introduction

Rushymeade is an ancient meadow on the south-eastern slopes of Pulloxhill.  With marvellous views over beautiful landscape, full of wildlife and rich in historical features, it is a rare example of undisturbed Bedfordshire grassland.  Rushymeade was purchased by the Pulloxhill Parish Council in 2001 for the pleasure and enjoyment of the village; it comprises just over sixteen acres encompassing open meadow land, boggy ground and shrubby areas where a wide variety of wildlife and birds can be seen.  A further four acres of private grassland, with permissive access, makes up the whole area.  There are currently three horses on the land all year round and a small suckler herd join in the summer months to graze it and calve naturally.

 

 History

Rushymeade was originally six fields (most recently called Little Field, Short Hills, Green Pightle, Parsons' Piece and Rushymeade). The large ash and field maple trees standing in the grasses once all stood in hedgerows and boundary ditches edged the smaller fields.

 

Ridge-and-furrow (long, low mounds and shallow hollows), created by farmers ploughing their fields to improve drainage in the 13th and early 14th century, run across much of Rushymeade, which indicates that these areas have not been ploughed since the Middle Ages.  Small areas have been levelled by later ploughing; one such is Little Field (below Pulloxhill Lower School) that was cultivated until the middle of the 20th century and produced potatoes, cauliflower and other vegetables for a market gardener.

Rushymeade is bounded on the north west by two areas of grassland, each owned by local families, but there is no physical boundary and we manage the whole twenty acres as one site with open access.  Within one of these privately owned areas is the remains of a moat which could have been a magnate’s enclosure; this would have marked the headquarters of an early lord of the manor, who is likely to have been responsible for building the parish church within the curtilege.  No traces of a manor house survive, but it may have been placed centrally within the enclosure to the north east of the church.

 

Access

The are three main entrances to the Rushymeade: one is via Orchard Road along the designated footpath (past the Recreation Ground); another is through the churchyard, again on the footpath, and the last one is from the Barton Road with good access from Fieldside Road for wheelchairs and the disabled.  Although there is open access to the site, three public footpaths pass through Rushymeade so you may walk out towards Hill Foot, Barton and Blackhills.  There are three picnic tables (one adapted for wheelchair use) on the upper levels and there are several benches lower down.

 

Safety

Everyone is welcome to walk here, but Rushymeade is home to cattle and wild animals. Parents should ensure that young children are supervised near cattle. 

Please ensure that all dogs are kept under control.The cows are accustomed to dogs but  dogs should not be allowed chase or ‘play’ with them and especially not the calves because the cows get very protective during the first weeks after birth.

The Rusymeade committee carried out an assessment of the various options available for the management of the land. The following document looks at 5 options, from banning livestock to more vigorous checks of the cattle. Management Options for Rushymeade

This is the letter from Natural England regarding thier visit on 10 August 2015. Natural England Letter

In addition the Committee have set out the procedure for the introduction, management and removal of cattle on Rushymeade. Procedure for introduction, management and removal of cattle from Rushymeade.

In the unfortunate event that an incident should happen please complete the following form and return to the Parish Clerk as soon as possible. Rushymeade Incident Report Form

 

Wildlife

The mix of grassland, dense scrub and old hedgerows in Rushymeade is ideal for many plants and animals that find it difficult to survive in the modern landscape, so this is a haven for wildlife as well as for people.

 Centuries of livestock grazing have created a meadow rich in flowers and grasses.  In spring, cowslips and perfumed crab apple blossom brighten the meadow; in autumn, blackberries, elderberries and other fruits ripen.  Local bird watchers have recorded over thirty species of bird in Rushymeade, and a wide range of insects thrive here.  One of the most obvious is the Yellow Meadow Ant (Lasius flavuus), which has built the ant-hills throughout much of the site.  The mounds trap the heat of the sun to warm the ant eggs but in most meadows they have been pushed underground by rolling prior to hay-making.  Freshly excavated soil around a mound indicates an active ant-hill but may have been abandoned and are covered in grass.

Green Woodpeckers (Picus viridis) feed on the ants’ eggs and may be seen attacking the nests in the mounds or flying across the meadow with their undulating flight and ‘yaffling’ cry.

The Chinese Muntjac has become widespread in south-eastern England since it was brought to Woburn Abbey in the 20th century; it is a shy, chestnut-brown deer about the size of a fox and its tracks may be seen, especially in damp areas.

 

Acknowledgements

Pulloxhill Parish Council is grateful to Shanks First Fund, Mid Beds District Council, the Greensand Trust and the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, as part of the England Rural Development Programme, for their valued help in the purchase and management of Rushymeade.  

Thank you to David Smith. http://www.davidlosmith.co.uk/Rushymeade/

 

Pulloxhill Parish Council have a leaflet available about Rushymeade and one showing the public footpaths. Please contact the Clerk if you would like a copy.