Levenhall Links, E Lothian
LocationCounty: East Lothian
Nearest town or settlement: Musselburgh
Contact detailsContact name: Stuart Macpherson
Tel: 01620 827 242
Website: Wikipedia entry for Levenhall Links & Levenhall Links information on East Lothian Council website
PartnersScottish Power, Scottish Natural Heritage
Waste ash from the local coal-fired power station was dumped in coastal lagoons since the 1960s. Once full, the lagoons were capped with a thin layer of topsoil and landscaped with wetlands, woodland pockets and large areas of amenity grassland. The area, now known as Levenhall Links, was easy to maintain and was extensively used by the local population for informal recreation and bird watching. Indeed, two areas of the Links were designated as part of the larger Firth of Forth Special Protection Area for wading birds.
A 10 ha area of amenity grassland slightly distant from nearby paths was developed as a wildflower hay meadow. This was part of a larger grassland management review. Further details on this project are given below.
Project operations – in simple terms
Project operations – in more detail
Wildflower seed was sown into 4 small trial plots (totalling 1 ha). Slot seeding and top dressing were compared on plots that were either sprayed or unsprayed. The spray was a chemical growth retardant, intended to reduce competition from the existing sward.
Slot-seeding is an agricultural technique, whereas top dressing is used by local authorities to re-seed small areas of sports pitches, for example.
The seed was bought from a Scottish wildflower nursery and was of Scottish origin where possible. The mix comprised of about 20 species, including 6 grasses. These species covered a range of habitats, growth habit and flowering times.
700 wildflower plugs were also planted in one area of the meadow by local primary school children. These plants were bought from a nearby nursery that collects seed from local wildflowers.
A hay meadow is taken by a local farmer. The crop is sold to local stables so provides an income to the farmer. Ragwort and thistles are controlled by hand.
Eventually, wildflowers were found in the trial plots. It took 3 years before a decent range of species from the seed mix were found. Similarly, the planted flowers took time to establish and develop.
There was no difference in species composition or germination success between any of the trial plots. In simple terms, the trials taught us that large areas should be sown with a slot-seeder but smaller areas are suitable for a top dresser. The growth retardant had little if any impact on the trials so would not be used in future.
A National Vegetation Classification survey on the meadow revealed two different types of grassland. The un-sown areas were classed as MG7 – equivalent to agriculturally improved pasture on farmland. The seeded areas, however, were classed as MG6. This is a more species rich grassland, and indeed the seeded areas contained up to 50% more species than un-seeded areas.
The area now has a distinct summer and winter habitat. The hay meadow in the summer is a habitat for grey partridge, brown hare and skylark. In autumn and winter the shorter grass is a roost for geese and waders.
The meadow creates a better visual landscape and wildlife habitat. A local farmer cuts and removes the vegetation, saving about £5,000 per year in costs.
In spring 2012 East Lothian council held a public consultation to establish whether the local community would be supportive of Levenhall Links being designated as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR).