Rawcliffe Cornfield Nature Reserve is the cultivated field between Rawcliffe Bar Country Park and Rawcliffe Meadows/Shipton Road allotments. It is the last remainder of what was an open expanse of arable farmland before the Park & Ride site/Country Park were established. The Cornfield was established in 2000 as a planning obligation, to ensure that habitat for farmland wildlife was not completely lost from the local area.
The field is not, and never has been, dedicated as public open space and there are no provisions for public access. There are several good reasons for this:
- The Cornfield exists to provide a refuge for farmland birds and other wildlife: unrestricted access by people and dogs would make this impossible to achieve.
- There is an enormous amount of public access provision in the surrounding area including 7 kilometres of footpaths and 90 hectares (217 acres) of public open space. Pedestrian/cycle paths border the Cornfield to the south and west and the Country Park to the north.
- Management of the field is funded by DEFRA under an agricultural scheme known as Higher Level Stewardship. In order to qualify for this funding, the field has to be managed according to a detailed plan. This includes, amongst other things, growing wildlife seed crops to a precise specification and standard – if these crops are damaged, we could be liable to financial penalties. Potentially, funding could be withdrawn altogether.
- Site management involves regular use of agricultural machinery and sometimes the spraying with herbicides to control invasive weeds. Together with the uneven ground, this makes it unsafe for general public access. There are also bee hives on the site.
Although there are numerous signs advising that there is no public access to the Cornfield, a few people have repeatedly interfered with security fencing (installed during the current sewer main replacement) and trampled a wide path through our crops in order to walk their dogs across the field. The cost of making good the damage to crops is already expected to be in the region of £300, out of a budget which barely covers costs at the best of times. Walking across the Cornfield rather than using the adjacent footpaths saves a maximum distance of 70 metres.
So, please do enjoy the public open space on and around the Washland – but help us keep the Cornfield as a refuge for wildlife. If you want to know more about the Cornfield and its wildlife, please look around this website or feel free to contact us. Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows hope to hold one or more events to introduce people to the Cornfield’s birdlife this coming winter.