The fortunes of Somerset’s stunning wildflower meadows are set to be transformed with a new project on the Mendip Hills, being delivered by Somerset Wildlife Trust in its 50th anniversary year.
For the first time in its history, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a unique partnership of conservation organisations and local councils - led by Plantlife - a significant sum for a national project to save the UK’s remaining fragments of meadow. There were once natural wild flower meadows in every parish today only 2% of the meadows that existed in the 1930's remain. Nearly 7.5 million acres of wildflower meadow have been lost so far and they are still being destroyed.
The Save our Magnificent Meadows Project:
- A £3 million project which will transform the fortunes of our vanishing meadows and grasslands
- Over the next four years, over 74,000 acres across the UK will be targeted
- Over 500,000 members of the public will be involved
- Save our Magnificent Meadows is led by Plantlife working in close partnership with ten organisations including county Wildlife Trusts, The National Trust, the RSPB, Cotswold Conservation Board and Medway Valley Countryside Partnership
What is a meadow?
Wildflower meadow planting is enjoying a huge vogue in gardening; they look beautiful and attract wildlife, particularly threatened pollinators. But real wildflower meadows are vanishing and with them native flowers such as green-winged orchid, oxlip, dyer’s greenweed, and meadow saffron. Meadows and other grasslands are an intrinsic part of the UK’s natural and cultural heritage: rich in landscape character, farming, folklore and history, they are as much a part of our heritage as the works of Shakespeare.
The Save our Magnificent Meadows project will protect, conserve and restore wildflower meadows and other grasslands across the UK, and will focus on the traditional meadows and pastures in southern England such as those found on Mendip. Also, fermanagh grasslands of Northern Ireland, the pastures of west Wales, Scottish grasslands from Edinburgh to Aberdeenshire, the calaminarian and whin grasslands of Northumberland.
What is the local picture?
- Somerset has roughly 4,100 hectares (ha) of species-rich neutral and limestone grassland which includes 1,530ha of lowland meadows - arguably the most vulnerable of our grassland habitat types (1 hectare is equivalent to 1 football pitch in size).
- Only 55% of Somerset’s species rich grassland is protected in SSSIs.
- Somerset Wildlife Trust safeguards some of the best grasslands in the county in over 700ha of our nature reserves.
- Last year the Trust’s Chancellor’s Farm Nature Reserve was named the Coronation Meadow for Somerset
Michele Bowe from Somerset Wildlife Trust said: “Somerset Wildlife Trust is thrilled at the news that funding for the Save Magnificent Meadows has been successful. The Save Our Magnificent Meadows Project will enable us to conserve the incredibly rich and diverse grasslands and meadows of the Mendip Hills, where much of Somerset’s grassland heritage is found. The project will enable us to broaden our Mendip Living Landscape approach to include an exciting programme of work with local communities and school children. Activities will involve our fabulous grassland nature reserves including interpretation and guided walks as well as landscape walks, events, and a parish meadows project for local people.”
Nicola Hutchinson from Plantlife said: “For the conservation of grassland plants and other wildlife this is incredible news. Our aim all along has been to establish a programme and a profile for the 'Cinderella of the conservation world'. There has never been a grassland programme of this scale or ambition before and it is an amazing opportunity for Plantlife, for the project partners, for all the beneficiaries of the project and for grassland wildlife.”
Drew Bennellick, HLF’s Head of Landscape and Natural Heritage,said: “The Heritage Lottery Fund is proud to be supporting this project to help protect and sustain one of our most precious yet disappearing habitats. ‘Saving our Magnificent Meadows’ is brilliant in its simplicity, its partnership approach and its ability to harness the power of hundreds of volunteers. The project will deliver a landscape-scale ecological impact working across 55 sites from Scotland to the West Country. It is projects like this that HLF is so keen to support to ensure we continue to benefit from the free ecosystem services these habitats provide and that they continue to survive for future generations to enjoy.”
NOTE TO EDITORS:
The Save Our Magnificent Meadows project partnership consists of 10 Organisations:
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
Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
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 £5.9bn across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk. For more information, please contact Katie Owen, HLF press office, on tel: 020 7591 6036/07973 613820.
Photograph © Steve Bond