Nitten Field is part of the historical Rhossili Field System known as THE VILE. At 3.2 acres it is larger than the typical strip fields in the area nearer to Rhossili Beach and Worms Head. We have been planting sacrificial crops for the past 16 years or so and leaving the edges uncultivated. All of this aimed at protecting our disappearing farmland birds which have reduced by a staggering 50% (and more since) 1970.
Nitten Field, Middleton, Rhossili 2019
We have tried over the years planting various seed-producing and nitrogen-fixing crops which were initially very successful in attracting large numbers of seed-eating wintering birds mainly greenfinch, chaffinch, reed bunting, yellow hammer, house sparrow and brambling. The crops were planted in April and left for the whole year with some weeding out of certain invasive species. The cost has always been high and we have been supported by The Gower Society from day one by grants and encouragement. The Society have continued its support and there have also been grants from The Sustainability Development Fund, administered by the AONB Team of the City and County of Swansea. Over the last 2 years we have left the field to self-seed because sufficient birds were not being attracted to justify the annual expense. This was a huge decision for us but we have been encouraged by the proliferation of insects, voles, invertebrates and snakes and slow worms around the fringes. Last year we joined forces with the National Trust who have embarked on their much larger scheme to plant traditional meadows and plant sacrificial wildlife crops in the restored historic and nationally important Vile field system. This is sponsored by the Gower Landscape Partnership Project SDF, from whom we are grateful to receive funding, as well as the continued support from the Gower Society. Our costs have reduced from about £1000 per year to about £450 thanks to the scale of the National Trusts enterprise. Walk through the Vile to see the scale of this latest of the National Trusts environmental work in Rhossili. It is signposted and waymarked. Walk down Mewslade Lane and see our work that has been going on for much longer !
This year half of Nitten field will be planted mainly with linseed, millet, and clover, with additions of sunflower, lupin and cereal crop seed. The other half has been lightly cultivated and a liberal planting of Lucerne (a super plant for insects) and hopefully self-seeding with various indigenous plants including corn marigold. The edges of the whole field have previous plantings of perennial chicory but this has been ploughed in on the West side this year. The wild overgrown edges (of about 6metres) provide superb permanent habitat. The planted areas attract migrant warblers, as well as food for the young of our target farmland species. Butterflies and bees have also been particularly abundant The rougher areas attract kestrels, barn owls and tawny owls that hunt for mice ad voles Yellow hammers disappeared from Mewslade Valley in 2015 but now in 2018 and 2019 we have a pair nesting in the corner of Nitten Field that produced two broods in 2018.
Over the winter months so far we have witnessed significant numbers of finches, pippets, skylarks and winter migrants from Scandinavia and we have spread additional wild bird seed to attract them and supplement their feeding.
Gordon and Beryl Howe own the field and would be pleased to answer and questions. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01792 390560.