Moving Fresh Water Courses
The Blyth skirts the southern boundary of the Millennium Green as part of it’s journey from it’s source, on higher ground south west of Haleworth at Laxfield, towards Southwold where at flows into the Northsea. The stretch that borders the Green is more than capable of sustaining several species of aquatic plants as well as fauna such as kingfishers and otters. The habitat it creates is ideal for the Banded Demoiselle Damselfly (which can be found along the whole length of the Blyth’s course through The Green) and it’s high banks allow for several species of water side plants to thrive- such as Small Teasel and also a good stand of alder- and it’s in this area along the banks that the rare grass Bearded Couch has become established. The gentle meanders that cut into the Alluvuim (see Geology page for full details) have created almost vertical banks allowing for potential kingfisher nesting sites.
This is a tributary of the River Blyth that begins its life on the higher ground to the north west of Halesworth and runs through the centre of the town itself. It meets the Millennium Green after flowing under the River Lane foot bridge and runs along the western and southern edges of Angel Meadow before following a course through The Green itself (creating the boundary that divides Chestnut Meadow and Lester’s Piece) to meet up with The New Reach the other side of the main railway line on Blyth Meadow. The Town River and New Reach then travel together and meet up with The Blyth River at the east end of Blyth Meadow. While not such a high status river for flora as The Blyth it is worth mentioning that Wood Club-rush, an unusual plant for Suffolk, is well established near the bridges. As with The Blyth otters are also present along this water course.
Unlike the two water courses mentioned above The New Reach is a manmade structure, built, as part of the ‘improvements’ to The Blyth in the 1760’s, for navigation purposes. However it is no less an important habitat than the two natural rivers, in fact being deeper and slower moving it is probably the richer of the three water course habitats when it comes to wildlife. Fish (Pike can often be spotted lurking just under the surface) are plenty and dragonflies and damselflies can be seen here regularly in the summer months- one of these being the uncommon Ruddy Darter Dragonfly-and several unusual plants grow within the water including Unbranched Bur-reed and Curled Pondweed
Many of the meadows that make up the Millennium Green as a whole are divided up further by a network of drainage ditches, some of which are prone to dry out during the summer while others hold their water all year round. The later are more important when it comes to wildlife habitat. There are signs of water voles along the edges of these ditches and many plants and invertebrates thrive in such places.
While no ancient woodland is present on the Millennium Green a sizeable area of The Folly consists of secondary woodland, that has established since the nineteenth century gravel pits became redundant, which mainly includes pedunculate oak and silver birch alongside non native species such as evergreen oak, due to the nature of the light sandy soil most of these species appear in a stunted form. The oaks are especially important for wildlife due to them being home to a very high number of invertebrate species. .
The Folly also contains a considerable area of shruby woodland along its eastern edge which consists mainly of elm and hawthorn although larger trees, such as oak, are also present. The Green Snowdrop grows amongst these trees- this was its only known Suffolk station for several years. Apart from The Folly the only other areas that contain trees have all been planted since the year 2000. The top end of Folly Meadow includes a newly planted area of mixed native species known as ‘Arthurs Wood’, alongside this various species of apple trees create what is known as the ‘Community Orchard’. At the extreme south end of The Green there is a small wet meadow known as Two Acres of which half has been planted up with both poplar and willow trees, these are now well established.
Hedgerows & Scrub
Although not technically part of the Millennium Green the embankments created by the main railway line, that cuts through it, have provided a substantial area of natural scrubland that is ideal for scrub and ground nesting birds. The Cetti’s Warbler can often be seen and heard during summer along this area. There are a few hedgerows located mainly on the boundaries of the Millennium Green, the two worth mentioning are the one along The New Reach towpath, this is mainly composed of Hawthorn but some of the gaps have recently been planted up with native hedgerow species. The other one, which is a good species rich hedgerow, is located on the south edge of Lester’s Piece.
Blyth Meadow, Chestnut Meadow and Lester’s Piece are all summer grazed by cattle. The Barn Owl is a frequent visitor to these meadows and can often by spotted hunting, at dusk or dawn, for small mammals who inhabit the areas where the grass has been left to grow longer. The actions of the cattle have allowed the creation of micro habitats along the edges of ditches via the indentations left by the many hoof prints over time.
Non Grazed Meadows
There are three non grazed meadows on the Millennium Green. The first, Angel Meadow, is currently being left to its own devices whereas the second Folly Meadow, although grazed prior to the year 2000, is now a particularly rich and varied non grazed habitat- due to it being managed by weekly and monthly work parties Its northern end is positioned at a slightly higher elevation than the rest of the meadow and sand under the top soil is dominant here. However much of the southern end has peat exposed at the surface. The middle field of Folly Meadow is the best floristically on the Green with areas of fen vegetation, two species of orchid have been recorded here in recent years. Immediately following the cessation of grazing a reed bed (Phragmites australis) appeared (where reed bunting and sedge warbler have bred) and this has been left largely unmanaged since. However it is clear that it has deteriorated dramatically and the areas of most vigorous reed growth are those that have received mowing since 2000. The reed bed abuts a spring fed area to the south and this receives a variety of summer mowing with the removal of cut material. This has reduced the dominance of pond sedge and favoured such species as greater birds’ foot trefoil (Lotus uliginosus); ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi); fen bedstraw (Galium uliginosum). Harvest mice are known in this area from their nests. The adjacent south facing railway embankment is dominated by scrub and rank grassland. It provides for undisturbed nesting and basking areas- grass snake and slow worms can are often seen under the deliberately placed corrugated iron sheets. The triangular ‘waste’ area at the extreme south is currently being established as an arable weed area. The low lying meadow Two Acres used to be summer grazed by cattle but is now managed via the occasional cut. Slow worm and harvest mice are spotted here and meadow rue is present alongside the railway line.
The Folly is essentially an area of disused nineteenth century gravel workings. The abandonment of these has created areas of open, well drained acid grassland on impoverished soil. There are also important south facing slopes for capturing sunlight and hollows that create shelter spots. These areas are extremely important for both flora and fauna. The short grassland, created by the impoverished acidic soil, allows a special community of plants (some of which are rare) to flourish. Many of these plants are annuals which need the short vegetation in order to survive. The light soil heats up more rapidly than other soil types and therefore creates a special habitat for the many species of insects that require these conditions. Birds also benefit from this due to the abundance of insects. A small colony of the Brown Argus butterfly is present on a south facing slope, they rely solely on the Common Black Ant for their survival. As well as the Brown Argus another butterfly, the Green Hairstreak, can also be seen frequenting this spot in the early summer. The small remnant of acid grassland we have in The Folly is extremely important and is currently being managed sympathetically in order to conserve it.
Man Made Structures
It’s difficult to say what constitutes a man made structure, as has already been mentioned above, features such as the New Reach, The Folly and the railway line embankments have been engineered by human hands- infact every square inch of the Millennium Green has been shaped in some way by the acts of humans. However for the purpose of defining the different habitats such structures have been kept to the various bridges, locks and railways arches that are present on the Green. These structures are managed in a way that keeps them from deteriating further while allowing nature to take advantage as well- a beneficial mix of heritage restoration and nature conservation. This is best illustrated with regards to the railway bridges and arches that act as artificial cliff-like habitats allowing species of ferns who require these type of conditions, such as Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum), Hart’s tongue Fern (Phyllitis scolopendrium) and Wall Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria), to grow.