The creation of a field of dreams where the wild things can grow

DID YOU know that one-third of the food we eat depends upon insect pollination? And did you know that although bumble bees and butterflies are effectively the Page 3 models of the insect world, there really are enough ugly bugs around to host their own ball as Burl Ives sang in the Disney movie Summer Magic.

Ros Forbes Adam in Three Hagges Wood Meadow, Escrick, York.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Ros Forbes Adam in Three Hagges Wood Meadow, Escrick, York. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

These facts and many more including stories of voracious herons, slurping mallards, a vole explosion, grasshopper chorus and 196 recorded native species of plants and wildflowers from a zero base in just two years on a 25-acre plot of land at Hollicarrs, Escrick put a smile on the face of Linden Hawthorne.

Linden is project designer and manager of Three Hagges Wood Meadow, which was originally conceived as a Jubilee wood in commemoration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Her career has included roles as head gardener and author of several tomes including the Royal Horticultural Society’s book Plants for Places and experience in meadow.

She’s in her element while working alongside Ros Forbes Adam of Escrick Park Estate who is chair of the Hagges Wood Trust and the third member of the female trio Tango Fawcett.

“I came here in summer 2012 and we have transformed what was a field of barley into something that is very special. A wood-meadow is an ancient management system that was once commonplace in this country, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe and made a significant contribution to the area through the provision of building materials, herbals and a fuel source. We had started off with the idea of a wood with meadows in between and we were looking for as much open space as we could possibly get while still attracting our initial grant from the Forestry Commission.

“Greater open land is what makes it a wood-meadow and fulfils our primary aim of increasing biodiversity. The transitional zones in between the woodland and the balance of competition between grasses and plants also means you get double the number of species.

“We were very fortunate in obtaining a grant from Bettys to set up a nursery next door to the wood-meadow to raise native wild flowers and in what is a very limited space we can add 10,000 a year specifically with species that we are missing.” The woodland is in its infancy but the wildflower meadows are already blooming.

Ros says what they have achieved in a short space of time has been spectacular.

“Everyone was very excited about creating new woodland in the Jubilee year as the Woodland Trust had contacted many landowners.

“My husband Charlie suggested that perhaps we should start a wood where we had previously talked about having an arboretum.

“I had no idea what would be involved at the time and it had already taken me 12 years to get our garden at Skipwith Hall to something like the way I wanted it, so I reckoned this would take some time before it became fantastic, but I think what we have created here so far is pretty fantastic already.”

There is a very real beauty in Three Hagges Wood Meadow and it is something Linden, Ros and Tango are keen to share.

“Wild flowers such as Birds-foot Trefoil support over 40 species of insect that are the primary food source for young birds,” says Linden. “They will only eat larvae and insects.

“That’s the start of the food web right there. Once you have that you attract birds of all varieties.”

Engagement with the local community and further afield; encouraging people to come and experience wildflowers, insects and birds; and providing greater research study are just three of the many benefits Three Hagges Wood Meadow offers.

It’s also a hit with visiting schoolchildren.