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  • Julie Muller

UPTON HAM - Seasonal Fluctuations

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

(Nearest post code - WR8 0QE)

Visited by Zak and Shep

Upton Ham is a small SSSI tucked away by the banks of the River Severn near Upton Upon Severn. It is a large flat flood meadow and Zak and I have visited it on many occasions , in all weather conditions and at all times of the year.

In the winter when the river overspills its banks the meadow is covered with water and so it is not an ideal walk . However, during that time, the Ham as it is called, is home to a large number of over wintering snipe. These round plump birds like to feed on worms and molluscs that they find in the mud using their long slender bills.

As the year progresses the meadow changes and many grasses and wildflowers grow. By the time May and June arrive the vegetation is human waist-high and the air buzzes with bright coloured butterflies and insects This is our favourite time of year to visit the Ham. There are so many interesting sights and smells. Upton Ham is so special because it supports such a variety of plants – many of which have intriguing names like meadow foxtail and red fescue . Some plants such as narrow leaved water dropwort and mousetail are quite scarce.

Two sheep dogs walk along the edge of Upton Ham close to the banks of the River Severn in Worcestershire
Zak and Shep stretch their legs at the edge of Upton Ham close to the banks of the River Severn

This beautiful place is also a magnet to many ground nesting birds including yellow wagtail, curlews, red shank so called because of their red legs and skylark and so it is so important that we stay on the footpaths that travel around the perimeter of the meadow because the tall grass is a vital cover for them. It would be so easy to disturb them. The bird nesting season is between March and the end of July and all of the different species of bird will produce clutches of eggs during that time. In order for the chicks to hatch successfully we need to leave them undisturbed, tempting though it might be to chase through the dense vegetation.

We have never been lucky enough to hear the melodious bubbling of the curlew. Julie is quite envious of the people whose houses back on to the Ham.

The path takes you alongside the banks of the River Severn and as we trot along, sniffing the grasses we are often mobbed by damselflies and dragonflies. There are some really rare ones that are known to breed along this stretch of the river including the aptly named white legged damselfly and the club tailed dragonfly.

As summer ends, the meadow changes and on our most recent visit we found that all of the grasses and wildflowers had been cut for hay. For many meadows the hay is cut before Lammas Day (1st August) and it is on or after this date that animals are allowed back on to the land to graze.

It is important that the hay is cut after the wildflowers have set seed. The cut grass is removed and after a short rest, sheep are brought to graze on the meadow. The sheep will nibble away at the grass that is left leaving bare expanses of soil for the new seedlings to establish in the springtime. As soon as the meadow becomes too wet, the sheep will be moved away again.

Between the hay cut and the sheep arriving Shep and I can run around much more freely.

When the sheep arrive, we need to be on our best behaviour again but it is well worth it. The resulting wildlife is a gift to us all – humans and dogs alike!

Part of Upton Ham SSSI is managed by the Kemerton Conservation Trust and more information about their activities can be found on their website.

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