Queens Award for Voluntary Service

Big Meadow

Big Meadow is a 4ha/10 acre field on the left of the Fauna path approaching The Orchard.


  • Farmers in the past drained this marshy land and contained the brook into a steep sided channel, leading to a culvert.
  • The reduction of wetland around the Lancaster and Aldcliffe area has been detrimental to wildlife, in particular wading birds.

Since 2012

  • We have converted the area into a “wet pasture” by breaking up the field drains, thus creating a habitat for over-wintering snipe.
  • These birds breed in the uplands and spend the winter by the coast where they need tussocky patches, such as the soft rush ( juncus), in which to hide and damp grassy patches to feed.

Current Features

  • Inside the soft rush are open areas comprising a patchwork of grass and moss, ideal for snipe to feed. The moss absorbs water and locks in carbon.
  • There are 4 ponds: the largest, Alder Pond is close to the path, Loxam’s, Friar’s and Ash Tree are hidden in the rush.
  • An old alder tree stands by Alder Pond.
  • In the winter there may be 100 snipe, both common snipe and jack snipe hidden in the rushes.
  • White Park cattle.


  • We manage the water level by adjusting the height of the pipe in Alder Pond. If the field becomes too wet, water is allowed to run out of the pond towards Lucy Brook.
  • Once a month in winter, volunteers walk through the rushes, flushing and counting the snipe.
  • White Park cattle, are moved around the reserve, keeping the grass low and breaking up the rush.
  • Some ragwort is removed, but not all, as this is a valuable plant for a large number of invertebrates, especially the cinnabar moth caterpillar.


  • No changes are planned currently.

Look out for

Snipe, especially in the evening when they move around to feed. Thrushes, including fieldfare, probing for worms in the winter

White Park cattle.

Photographic Survey

We maintain a record of how the various areas of Nature Reserve are progressing. Photographs have been taken on roughly 5 occasions each year: March, mid-May, late June, early August and late September. Click on an image to launch the survey photograph album.

Photographs launch in an album in Google Photos and should appear in date order in the album. To find out the date particular photos were taken, first select the photo and then select the ‘i’ icon (top-right of screen) to bring up its properties.

View 2: Big Meadow towards Alder Wood Album
View 2: Big Meadow towards Alder Wood
View03-Loxams’ Pond towards Alder pond Album
View 3: Loxams’ Pond towards Alder pond
View09- Big Meadow looking across to houses in Abraham Heights-Album
View 9: Big Meadow looking across to houses in Abraham Heights
View28-Big Meadow towards Hay Meadow Album
View 28: Big Meadow towards Hay Meadow
View29-Alder Pond from Viewing Point Album
View 29: Alder Pond from Viewing Point