The UK’s wildflower meadows are vanishing, and with them our native flowers and the wildlife that rely upon them. Only 3% of the meadows that existed in the 1930’s now remain. Nearly 7.5 million acres of wildflower meadow have been lost so far and they are still being destroyed. To reverse this trend the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a unique partnership of conservation charities and local councils, led by Plantlife, funds for a national project to protect and conserve what’s left of this priceless heritage.
Plantlife’s Chief Executive Marian Spain explains: “Meadows are one of our most magical yet most threatened natural habitats and a hugely important part of our heritage. A generation ago they were commonplace on farms across the UK as the very places that sustained the animal we rely on for meat, milk and wool. But they are so rare now that many people growing up today have never seen a meadow. This project will mean that future generations will have the chance to experience the beauty of a meadow in full bloom on a summer’s day.”
Transforming the fortunes of our meadows, the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project is:
1. Restoring just under 6,000 hectares of wildflower meadows and grasslands across the UK.
2. giving people the chance to visit, enjoy and learn about wildflower meadows
3. giving communities the knowledge and skills to take action for meadows.
Across the UK, the Save Our Magnificent Meadows Project is carrying out work to reverse the trend of loss:
In Scotland Konik ponies will be tagged with GPS tracking devices to help restore a fen meadow at Loch of Strathbeg that has been become dominated by rushes. The ponies eat rushes and allow smaller, more delicate flowers to flourish, the tagging will help identify pony grazing patterns.
In Somerset, where just 55% of flower-rich grassland is protected, this project is focusing on the incredibly rich and diverse pastures and meadows of the Mendip Hills with an exciting programme of grassland restoration involving local communities and school children within individual parishes.
Wales has over 40% of the UK’s wildflower grasslands and Ceredigion is one of the best places for them, yet they are still under threat. Traditional management techniques will be reintroduced to remaining patchworks of small farms and meadows, which will become fantastic outdoor classrooms for future generations as their wildlife returns.
In Ulster, restoration of grasslands throughout Fermanagh and Tyrone is now underway. This will help conserve colonies of endangered marsh fritillary and is creating new habitats for other important species such as skylarks and narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth.
In Northumberland a history of mining has created rare river-shingle grasslands along the River South Tyne, so that only specialist plants able to tolerate poisonous metals can survive. These grasslands, including whin grasslands along the iconic Hadrian’s Wall, will be restored with careful management and their history protected.
In the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, local ‘meadow champions’ will help pioneer the restoration once flower-rich limestone grasslands along the Cotswold scarp and river valleys. They’ll engage landowners, local communities and the public in activities to reconnect small meadow fragments together.
Wiltshire’s chalk grasslands are home to a wealth of wildflowers and insects, notably orchids and butterflies. Between two of the largest remaining areas the project is creating floristic ‘stepping stones’, enhancing over 300 ha of newly recreated grasslands to allow wildlife to move across the landscape. Local volunteers will also help collect seed, plant wildflower plugs and monitor wildlife.
In Kent landowners are being given the support to manage, restore and create wildflower meadows while members of the public have the opportunity to become meadow champions.
The Save Our Magnificent Meadows project partnership consists of:
Cotswolds Conservation Board
Medway Valley Countryside Partnership
Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland and Wiltshire
Scottish Wildlife Trust
Somerset Wildlife Trust
Ulster Wildlife Trust
Wiltshire Wildlife Trust
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported 36,000 projects with £6bn across the UK - www.hlf.org.uk.