No scyther enjoys meeting a molehill whilst mowing.

It interrupts the flow of your scythe strokes, and worse still, blunts your blade!

We have a very healthy population of moles on the farm, complete with accompanying molehills. Late March / early April, whilst the weather is dry but before the grass is really growing away, is the time of year to flatten them.

The industrious moles will of course throw up more, but flattening them now vastly reduces the number that will be lying in wait for the scythe.

Molehills – a problem?

Unless you are planning on making haylage or silage, where soil contamination can lead to Listeriosis in livestock, mole hills are more of an inconvenience then a problem. Soil contamination is not an issue with hay. Nor is it an issue if you are simply planning on removing vegetation to a compost heap / garden /orchard etc.

Moles are as much a part of the meadow ecology as any flower or insect. I would rather work around them then try and reduce their numbers.

We ignore mole hills in fields that we don’t mow. Spring lambs enjoying leaping on them and flatten a fair number, others gradually grass over and add to the three dimensional nature of the field.

We flatten them in the hay meadows every spring to try and keep the fields a bit more even for mowing, and to decrease the number we meet when scything.

Managing Mole Hills

We flatten the molehills by hand, armed with a stout garden rake. In previous years I’ve invited friends round for a mole hill mashing party, but not this year! Despite the prodigious numbers the moles throw up in our 6 acres of hay meadow, it doesn’t take too long to flatten them, even when we are reduced to two rakers.

It is also a good opportunity to spend some time in the meadow and see what is stirring. I have included images of some of things I have found in the last few days in this article.

ABOVE: Field wood-rush (Luzula campestris) or Good Friday Grass. My Welsh speaking neighbour knows it as Pen Llwydyn. He says a good flowering indicates there will be plenty of grass for the cows in the summer to come.

Molehills – the gardener’s friend

Mole hills are not all bad news. Phil uses the fine crumbly soil to make a potting mix for the garden.

2 parts mole hill; 2 parts potting compost; 1.5 parts well rotted manure works well and helps stretch out the bought in compost.

It provides longer lasting fertility than the organic potting compost we use, which is particularly valuable for plants that will be staying in the pot for longer eg perennial plants. To prevent weed growth, we top off pots filled with molehill mix with a layer of sterile compost.

ABOVE: Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva) on a mole hill. This beautiful solitary bee makes underground nests. When freshly made, the entrance is marked by a distinctive volcano of soil.

…and the archaeologist’s friend

I’ve never found anything more exciting then a shard of broken teacup in a mole hill, but in places such as Epiacum Roman Fort near Alston, moles have thrown up interesting finds in areas where digs are forbidden. Here is Guardian report on the work of these useful moles.

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