The open hill at Henfron Farm has an area of Molinia caerulea (or Purple Moor Grass). Molinia grass is a perennial deciduous grass species and mostly grows on damp, acid or peaty soil. Molinia grass shoots start developing in April or May with the peak in vegetation mass in August. In September the first leaves are dead with the rest dying by November. Livestock do eat Molinia grass in its early growth but later in the season it becomes unpalatable for sheep although cattle will still graze it. In the autumn it completely sheds its leaves, leaving limited forage for grazing animals during the winter. The build-up of this grass has an impact on species diversity and habitat as well as decreasing the agricultural productivity of the land.
Farmers and conservationists are concerned about the species poor landscapes that are a result of Molinia Grass dominance. According to a report commissioned by the Welsh Government: ‘Unlocking the Potential of the Uplands’, “The spread of Molinia grass across large parts of upland Wales has had negative effects on agricultural productivity, access and recreation, fire risk and nature conservation.”
Traditionally Molinia grass has been harvested for use as a low quality winter feed (rhos hay) and for use as bedding for cattle and sheep in sheds during the winter.
Due to managing Molinia by harvesting and strategic grazing at Henfron we have created the perfect habitat for Golden Plover which can be regularly sighted.
As part of trying to find sustainable solutions for habitat management, as well as making Biochar we have experimentally processed Molinia into fuel briquettes.