Area: 7.6 hectares.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
A disused water meadow about 6.5 kilometres down stream from the spring source of the Sydling Water, a small chalk stream tributary of the River Frome in central Dorset. The wetness of the meadow varies as a result of the network of feeders and drains and in consequence an interesting mixture of plant communities occurs. Many of the species, and the habitat as a whole, are now uncommon, due to changes in land use and agricultural practice.
The flora of the meadow is rich and includes some 18 species of grass and 11 sedges. Much of the meadow is dominated by hard rush Juncus inflexus with patches of meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria. In this tall vegetation other typical species are greater bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus pedunculatus, fen bedstraw Galium uliginosum, meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis, ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi and, locally, southern marsh orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa. In drier areas taller grasses predominate, especially ryegrass Lolium perenne and meadow fescue Festuca pratensis. There are patches of shorter damp grassland which is dominated by red fescue Festuca rubra, sweet vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum and crested dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus. Here the smaller sedges Carex flacca, C. panicea and C. hirta are often abundant and herbs include bugle Ajuga reptans, the buttercups Ranunculus acris and R. repens and the local marsh valerian Valeriana dioica and strawberry clover Trifolium fragiferum.
A marsh community has developed along the old water meadow drains and this is characterised by a number of herbs many of local occurrence. Red rattle Pedicularis palustris is abundant and there are several stands of bog bean Menyanthes trifoliata. Spike-rush Eleocharis palustris, cotton-grass Eriophorum angustifolium and bog pimpernel Anagallis tenella all occur locally as well as more widespread species such as marsh marigold Caltha palustris. The uncommon moss Climacium dendroides is found in this community as is the more frequent moss Calliergonella cuspidatum. Parts of the drains, especially in the south, are permanent water courses which support water cress Nasturtium officinale, water speedwell Veronica anagallis-aquatica, and the local water whorl-grass Catabrosa aquatica. Stands of reed canary grass Phalaris arundinacea and lesser pond sedge Carex acutiformis occur along the sides of the water courses and banks of the Sydling Water.