Somerset Wildlife Trust volunteers will be growing 2,000 plants as part of a project to restore precious wildflower meadows, bringing back butterflies and other pollinating insects to restore that familiar buzz of a meadow to the Mendip Hills.
One year ago, HRH The Prince of Wales launched Coronation Meadows at his own meadow at Highgrove House. The second stage of this remarkable nationwide project, which aims to create new wildflower meadows across the UK, is underway this summer. Twenty seven meadows will be restored across the country, supported by generous funding from Biffa Award.
National effort to reverse decline
Somerset Wildlife Trust volunteers are supporting this national effort to reverse the decline of these outstanding places. Using seed harvested from the Trust’s Chancellor’s Farm Nature Reserve the volunteers are growing-on plug plants in their own gardens or greenhouses before replanting them back in the countryside.
Coronation Meadows are outstanding examples of flower-rich grasslands that reflect the local character of the landscape and last year Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Chancellor’s Farm Nature Reserve, near Priddy, was named the Coronation Meadow for Somerset.
A vital project
The volunteers will be growing the wildflowers under the guidance of Jake Chant, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Mendip Hills Living Landscape Advisory Officer. Jake said: “Projects like this are vital as they enable us to help nature’s recovery and inspire people to make a connection with the natural world.
“Meadows form a vital part of Mendip Living Landscape and are now nationally scarce. Through this support from Biffa Award, we will be able to create and restore some of the best examples of flower-rich meadows across the UK, creating a lasting legacy for the next 60 years.”
Plug plants transferring to receptor site in 2015
Every volunteer was given several species of wildflower seed, plant trays and pots, and sacks of compost. Each species will be planted in its own tray, before being isolated into pots and then transferred to the receptor site in a year’s time spring for the early growers, with the bulk going out in the autumn. Each volunteer will grow between 60 and 150 plants, contributing to a total of around 2,000 plants to be transferred to receptor meadows in 2015.
Another Trust Nature Reserve, Middledown, and a neighbouring farm will receive the wildflowers helping to build the ecological networks that will allow wildlife to move, expand and thrive. The Trust hopes that species such as birdsfoot trefoil, rough hawkbit, black knapweed, betany, devil’s bit scabious, lady’s bedstraw and bluebell will establish; all of which provide food and shelter for a variety of wildlife, in particular pollinating insects.
The wildflower seeds were harvested from Somerset’s Coronation Meadow earlier in the summer, by hand and using a brush harvester, which as the name suggests uses a rotating brush which gently flips the mixed seeds into a collection bin.
HRH The Prince of Wales' vision
Coronation Meadows Project Manager, Dan Merrett, said: “The Coronation Meadows represent the crown jewels of our few remaining wildflower-rich fields.
“In launching the project His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales set the challenge to mark the 60th Anniversary of The Queen’s coronation by stimulating a new mood to value our remaining meadows and use their seed to restore and create new meadows. The work today is a significant step in the concerted effort of organisations and individuals across the UK to fulfil His Royal Highness’s vision at sites with the sound management and secure future necessary to ensure that a classic British landscape, vital for so much of our wildlife, isn’t consigned to the history books.”
Tom Beeston, Chief Executive of RBST, adds: “Our native breeds were bred to utilise flower rich grasslands. Habitats such as flower-rich meadows are dependent on grazing to create the varied sward structure essential to some of our rarest plants and ground nesting birds such as lapwing and snipe. Horseshoe bats for example depend on grazed pasture and meadows in which to forage for insects. Many conservation organisations now use native breed livestock for grazing on wildlife sites, thus not only maintaining wildlife biodiversity but also that of farm animals.”
As a working farm, access to Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Chancellor’s Farm Nature Reserve is by appointment.