You may have noticed a flowery theme in the new issue of Exmoor Magazine. There is an article on how to plant a wildflower meadow, Trevor Beer’s ‘Country Matters’ page is devoted to the poppy (to coincide both with meadows being in focus but also with the First World War Centenary year) and we have an article on artist Lucy Large; many of Lucy’s delicate paper creations feature some of our wonderful native flowers. Flowers are a recurring feature for this issue not simply because it is summer, but because meadows have been thrown into the spotlight this 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 is 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 and 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 Fermanagh grasslands of Northern Ireland, the pastures of west Wales, Scottish grasslands from Edinburgh to Aberdeenshire, the calaminarian and whin grasslands of Northumberland and traditional meadows and pastures in southern England
Nicola Hutchinson from Plantlife says: “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, says: “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.”
Find out more here: www.plantlife.org.uk
Photo: Orange tip butterfly on Ladys smock (c) Linda Tillotson courtesy Plantlife