Firs Field

Firs Field

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Bath Asparagus
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Mines Complex

In 1742, Mine owner, Ralph Allen, planted the trees which give Firs Field its name. The tall, straight and quick-growing firs were actually Scots pines. They made ideal pit props down the mines.

The public open space at the heart of Combe Down village, called Firs Field, has traditionally been as rich in wildlife as it is in history.

Bath Asparagus

A local woodland wild flower is the Bath Asparagus, also known as the Spiked Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum pyreaicum). The plant is scarce nationally but is found in greater numbers in the Bath area, and particularly Combe Down. The leaves resemble bluebell leaves but are a softer green and not as glossy. The star shaped flowers appear in June, after the leaves die, and are of a greenish white colour. The flowering spike can reach up to one metre high. It can be found on shady roadside verges, open woodlands and hedgerows. At the unopened stage the flowers used to be gathered in small quantities as a fresh vegetable by local people; it was also occasionally sold in local markets. However because the plant is nationally scarce and slow to spread into new areas picking the flowers is discouraged. According to research carried out by the Avon Wildlife Trust the plant is found throughout Europe but has only a limited UK distribution. In the Bath and North East Somerset area 85 sites were identified in the mid-1990s, mainly situated around Keynsham and the South of Bath. The main threats to the plant include habitat loss, development of land, overgrazing of woodland by deer, and the picking of the plant by humans. It is possible that the flower was brought to Bath area as seeds carried on the wheels and hooves of Roman vehicles and animals 2000 years ago.

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Soil types

The limestone below the field causes its soil to be too poor in nutrients for most plants to flourish. Such soils, however, create the ideal conditions for particular groups of uncommon wildflowers to thrive and sustain invertebrates such as butterflies and rare snails. This type of habitat is known as 'calcareous grassland'. It is a meadow habitat that has been fast disappearing in the UK.

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Firs field during project

Disruption to this special area was unavoidable during the stablisation works. The field was used as a construction compound for the stabilisation project. The top soil had to be removed to allow the compound to be built and has now been landscaped to recreate a grassland meadow bordered by newly planted native trees and shrubs.

Suitable soil was identified and brought to site to re-instate the grassland meadow in its original position. It was expected to take some years before the meadow would become as species-rich as it was before the project. Sympathetic management practices are used to give the meadow a good chance to thrive.

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