Tag Archives: Plantlife

Time for a great British meadow revival

If you were a time lord and could travel back in time to say the 1950s the British countryside would be awash with a mosaic of meadows. They were a staple of the farming system which was full of wild life.

In the last six decades things have changed pretty drastically. Haymeadows have declined by around 90%; a common yet sad stat for many of our fragile habitats. The green revolution in farming (ie more intensive farming) and other changes in land use created the perfect conditions for a slow long decline.

And yet it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a gradual, very British, revolution taking place. Conservation organisations like the National Trust, Plantlife and the Wildlife Trusts (supported by lottery funding and public support), are at the forefront of introducing a change in the way that land is managed to re-introduce haymeadows. They clearly see the value of a habitat that creates a place for wildflowers and insects to flourish.

Visiting a haymeadow in the summer when its just about to peak is a wonderful experience. The plethora of grasses gently sway in the summer breeze, wildflowers add a splash of colour like a Monet painting and butterflies bask in the sunshine. Its one of those experiences that just captivates you.

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A local meadow in Bath, helping to create rich habitats for local wildlife

This slow change in the way that we see the land has also arrived in our towns and cities. At a time of challenging budgets for local authorities creating a network of meadows makes financial sense and enriches the local green spaces. In Bath over the last couple of years mini-meadow projects have been popping up across the city.

These wild places are great for people living in urban areas to reconnect with the natural world. Often small patches of green, they add a vibrancy, and a sense of why nature is so important as a tonic for our busy screen based lives.

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At Bath City Farm, thanks to funding from Natural England, a haymeadow is being re-created on a steep sided hill. When you wander around the nature trail, you will in June, come across a field full of buttercups and with this new meadow project the diversity of flowers will only grow.

Meadows can have a slightly romantic feel to them; those sun-kissed days full of dappled light and the lush warm colours. And yet they provide a really important place for nature to call home. Its time that the Great British Meadow revival really took hold so that they once again become a common sight across our wonderful landscapes.

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The wonder of wild flowers

So the votes have been counted and the public have had their say – the bluebell is the nation’s favourite wild flower.

Out of the twenty-five shortlisted candidates its not a massive surprise. Bluebells are one the flowers of spring time and they grace our woodlands (and elsewhere) with an amazing carpet of colour every year. I have to declare my hand: I voted for the snakes head fritillary.

Interestingly and just like the general election the bluebell didn’t have all its own way. In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland the primrose with its lovely mellow yellow colour topped the flower pops in these three nations. The sheer weight of the vote cast in England, however, meant that the bluebell reigned supreme.

I do love wild flowers. At this time of year they add a wonderous splash of colour to the countryside but also, and I think importantly, our towns and cities. For generations wild flowers were a vital part of our seasonal calendar. However since 80% of us now live in urban areas that connection has diminished.

That is why the work of organisations such as Plantlife and Kew to get wild flowers into parks, roadside verges, roundabouts and our back gardens is so important. A little bit less mowing by local authorities is helping to create more space for meadows. And wildflowers can only be a good thing: brightening the places that we live and creating an important habitat for insects such as bees and butterflies.

Walking through a woodland full of bluebells is one of the joys of life. Its something that makes me feel so good every time that I do it. Or spotting a little bluebell wood hidden from the general gaze of people driving past, such as a nice woodland area in Swindon near to J16 of the M4.

However – we do need to remember that there is more to life than bluebells and that there is a whole range of wonderful wild flowers out there. That is why polls such as this one help to raise the profile of the diversity of flowers but also the important role that we all have in terms of celebrating them and looking after them.