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Meadows and pastures are areas of open grassland which support a wide range of other plants and animals.
The grass is kept short in a meadow by being cut or mown, in pastures the grass is eaten or ‘grazed’ by animals such as cows, sheep and rabbits.
Mixed with the grass are many species of mainly low growing plants, which like an open sunny situation. They grow quickly in the summer, providing a home for many species of insects and die back in the winter. In turn the insects provide food for birds that migrate here for the summer.
Fishbourne Meadows is an area of low-lying damp meadow next to the harbour at the top of Fishbourne channel. It has never been ploughed so it has a wide range of plant and insect species. Freshwater streams flow through the meadow keeping the area moist. It is bordered by areas of woodland in places, with species that like damp conditions such as willow and alder.
The wetter parts of the meadow contain plants such as rushes. There is also a colony of rare Southern Marsh Orchids which put up beautiful spikes of purple flowers in June.
Patches of nettles are important to wildlife as they are the food plant for the caterpillars of several butterflies such as peacock and small tortoiseshell. Buttercups and clover are a source of nectar to many insects.
Insects such as greenfly feed on the sap of plants and ladybirds and soldier beetles eat these. Capsid and shield bugs also feed on plants and spiders spin webs to catch a variety of insects.
Birds such as swallows feed on insects by swooping over the meadow whilst chiff chaffs nest in the surrounding trees.
Cows graze the meadows at certain times of the year. They eat some of the plants that grow strongly, making space for species that would otherwise be crowded out.
Many areas of meadow have been turned into farmland where they use insecticides to kill off insects harmful to crops but these also kill beneficial insects.
Many people enjoy walking their dogs through the meadows.
There is the possibility that if too many people use Fishbourne meadows the environment could become damaged or polluted. Keeping to the footpaths and using the dog bins will help with these problems.