Upton Ham

Location: Upton-upon-Severn, Worcestershire.

Grid Reference: SO 860 400

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Like so many Plantlife reserves, Upton Ham is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The citation document describes it as “southern alluvial meadow…selected as the largest example of this nationally scarce habitat in Worcestershire”. The River Severn floods regularly and Upton Ham is one of the places where it bursts its banks, depositing silt over the land and producing a fertile soil in which many species flourish.

The flooding means the meadow remains largely unimproved in an agricultural sense. Like most of our meadow reserves, it continues to be managed traditionally, with a late hay cut and aftermath grazing. Its cultural importance is reflected in its long history as a Lammas meadow, like our Lugg Meadow Reserve. That means that ownership of the meadow lies with several local families, but their land is unenclosed. The owners are entitled to take a crop of hay from their land in July, but from 1 August (Lammas Day) the whole site reverts to common grazing until February.

Pepper and saffron

It is the combination of enriched soil and a long tradition of hay making that makes Upton Ham so interesting botanically. It is a good example of what ecologists call "MG4 grassland", species-rich grassland on riverside soils, dominated by meadow foxtail grass and great burnet. It has many similarities to Lugg Meadow, except that great burnet is much more abundant here, with its oblong heads of crimson flowers. Other common species include meadow vetchling, pepper-saxifrage and red fescue grass.

Less common are meadow saffron, with crocus-like, pale purple flowers in late summer, common meadow-rue, common bistort, meadow crane’s-bill, parsley water-dropwort and two nationally scarce species, narrow-leaved waterdropwort and mousetail, which is largely confined to disturbed ground.

An unusual meadow component here is wood anemone, a plant more typically found in the shade of woodland. Because of its extent and open nature, Upton Ham offers good breeding sites for yellow wagtails and curlews, whose haunting calls add to the wild feel of the meadowland. In winter, large numbers of snipe are found here too.

Plantlife has a licence to declare a nature reserve on this land, which is owned and farmed by Adrian Darby.

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