Area: 24.1 hectares.
Adjacent to the Rempstone Heaths Site of Special Scientific Interest and the Hartland Moor National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. The site lies within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Dorset Heritage Coast.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
The meadows, lying mostly on alluvium in the valley of the Corfe River, have had a long history of traditional management for hay. Consequently they have a rich and attractive flora which is now rarely found in the county.
The meadows hold a range of grasses. Common-and creeping bents Agrostis capillaris and A. stolonifera are frequent components of the sward with sweet vernal grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, meadow foxtail Alopecurus pratensis, crested dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus, rye-grass Lolium perenne and Yorkshire fog Holcus lanatus. Meadow barley Hordeum secalinum is locally dominant especially in damp areas close to the Corfe River.
There is a rich and attractive complement of flowering plants. Among the herbs of the drier areas are yellow-rattle Rhinanthus minor, which is locally abundant, oxeye daisy Leucanthemum vulgare, common knapweed Centaurea nigra, rough hawkbit Leontodon hispidus, meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis, meadow-and creeping buttercups Ranunculus acris and R. repens, common sorrel Rumex acetosa and red clover Trifolium pratense. Pepper saxifrage Silaum silaus is present in places and corky-fruited water dropwort Oenanthe pimpinelloides, a local plant of southern England, is generally distributed and frequent.
Wetter areas within the hay meadows have soft-and jointed rushes Juncus effusus and J. articulatus with ragged-robin Lychnis flos-cuculi, meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria. Marsh bedstraw Galium palustre, lesser spearwort Ranunculus flammula, greater bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus pedunculatus and marsh-marigold Caltha palustris. In more frequently inundated areas not managed for hay tall fen vegetation has developed with much reed canary-grass Phalaris arundinacea, greater-and lesser pond-sedge Carex riparia and C. acutiformis, hemlock water-dropwort Oenanthe crocata and purple-loosetrife Lythrum salicaria.
Several cattle-grazed fields adjacent to the hay meadows are influenced by the acidic lateral flow and drier soil conditions associated with surrounding heathland areas, this resulting in modifications to the grassland community. Species frequently occurring within these areas include tufted hair-grass Deschampsia cespitosa, common bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus and lady’s bedstraw Galium verum. Wetter peripheral areas of poor fen vegetation contain bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata, heath spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata, marsh lousewort Pedicularis palustris, devil’s-bit scabious, Succisa pratensis and marsh cinquefoil Potentilla palustris, a plant of restricted occurrence within Dorset. A small relict bog community is also present, being dominated by bog-myrtle Myrica gale and purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea.
A variety of trees and shrubs including pedunculate oak Quercus robur, ash Fraxinus excelsior, silver birch Betula pendula, hazel Corylus avellana, common sallow Salix cinerea and alder Alnus glutinosa occur in a small block of wet woodland, in the hedgerows and along the banks of the Corfe River. These add diversity to the site and are of particular importance to the invertebrate fauna.
The fauna is known to contain a rich assemblage of commoner invertebrates including butterflies, spiders, mirid bugs, froghoppers and micromoths and among the beetles two local species, Bruchus loti and Stenus pallitarsis have been recorded.