The 4.5 hectare Cornfield is a unique arable nature reserve, managed by Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows to provide habitat for birds, insects and plants which depend on cultivated land. It was established when the Rawcliffe Bar Park & Ride site was developed, so that we did not completely lose arable farmland from the local landscape. This year, 1.5 hectares of wildlife seed crops will be sown in two blocks and should be established by mid May. These crops will include oilseed rape, fodder radish, mustard and cereals. The main cereal we plant is triticale, a very hardy hybrid between wheat and rye which can grow with minimal amounts of fertiliser. It produces a stiff stem which holds a head of grain through the winter.
No insecticides are used and the crops provide an abundance of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, moths and other insects during the summer. The crops are not harvested but left to stand over winter to provide food for seed-eating songbirds. Especially during cold weather, large numbers of Linnets, Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings and Corn Buntings can often be seen.
This year about 2 hectares will be left fallow until late summer while a small area of grassland habitat has been established at the eastern end of the field. During 2013 we will be carrying out a survey of some of the insects using the Cornfield so that we have better evidence to guide future management.
The Cornfield is the one area where we ask visitors to stay out in order to reduce disturbance to wildlife and avoid interference with agricultural operations.