Historic Weald and Downland Museum in Chichester enjoys unique Olympic Legacy that is set to support

Wildlife in West Sussex is set to become one of the unexpected ‘legacy’ beneficiaries of the Olympics, thanks to a joint initiative between the Hampshire-based organisation, Wildflower Turf Ltd and the Sussex- based Meadows Nectar Networks Initiative (MNNI).  On 31 October, 2012 around staff and volunteers from the MNNI and Wildflower Turf laid a 200 sq m donation of wildflower turf at the Museum’s 17th century Poplar Cottage with the aim of promoting and increasing awareness about the county’s regional biodiversity and sustainability.

WildflowerTurf_1_webThe historic Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton, Chichester is now the second UK site to benefit from a donation of soil-less turf.  This bespoke Olympic mix of wildflowers and grasses, which was produced using Wildflower Turf’s unique soil-less growing system, was specially grown for the games and featured at the opening ceremony and across a range of sites including the Equestrian centre and the Athletes’ village. The wildflower turf placement in Chichester follows on closely from turf being laid at the historic Kingsmead Meadow site near Battle in East Sussex, the first area of meadow in the UK to benefit from the new initiative.

WDownland_TurfPrepJames Hewetson-Brown, Wildflower Turf’s managing director, explains: “We were delighted to donate the special blend of wildflower turf, which specially features 30 different flower seeds and four types of grasses to the Weald and Downland Museum. We hope that the quality, adaptability, flexibility, and long- term environmental and financial rewards the turf offers might become more widely known through such a popular and historically important venue. We grew more than we needed for the Olympics, so the placement n West Sussex is an ideal way to extend the turf’s benefits to the wider community and provide a lasting legacy.”

KeithJames_OnTheDay“Sadly, the UK countryside faces an increasing threat from land use and this has had a devastating impact on habitats for rare and fast-declining numbers of our native plants, insects, animals and birds. In the last 75 years, 97% of the UK’s grasslands and wildflower meadows have been destroyed as a result of development activities and neglect, with a profound impact on the insects, animals and birds they once supported.”

The restored 17th century Poplar Cottage was originally located on the edge of the South Downs on the edge of Washington Common and re-erected at the museum in 1999. The flowers and grasses used in the turf include native flowers as Yellow Rattle, Self-heal and Bird’s-foot Trefoil and grasses such as Crested Dog’s-tail which were common in the region over 400 years ago but which have faced significant decline due to increasingly intensive farming methods.

teamwork_across_the_centuries_WDCommenting on the turf donation, Richard Pailthorpe, Museum Director, Weald and Downland Open Air Museum says: “We are delighted to be part of this project, particularly with its links to the Olympics.  It gives us the opportunity to conserve and demonstrate to our visitors a very important part of our environmental heritage.  The museum is not only about building history, but can also play a vital role in recreating a wildflower meadow and the ecosystem it supports.”

The British landscape, with its hedged tapestry of meadows and pastures, provide unique habitats which are home to many native species such as the cowslip, brown hare, short-haired bumblebee and Common Blue butterfly. Grasslands are vital for our biodiversity, ecosystem services, and enjoyment as communities, individuals and families. The Meadows Nectar Networks Initiative raises the awareness of the value of meadows by demonstrating to the public and landowners what can be achieved to reverse their decline. Over the last 15 years many ancient meadows have been recognised, protected, enhanced or created within the Weald utilising wild harvested local provenance seed. Keith Datchler, OBE and head of the Meadows Nectar Networks Initiative, says: “With the help of Wildflower Turf, this project will help us showcase the significant part wildflowers, herbs and grasses have played, and hopefully will continue to play, in encouraging biodiversity across the UK. Grasslands play a vital role in helping us maintain a healthy ecosystem for the benefit of our families and children as well as providing beautiful and inspirational places for us to enjoy.”

For more information or for interviews, please call Loop PR on +44 (0)1252 725 346 or email: louise.evans@loop-pr.co.uk    Mobile: +44 (0)7891 242476 esther.porta@loop-pr.co.uk    Mobile: +44 (0)7870 439158

For more information on the Meadows Nectar Networks Initiative, please contact Dawn Brickwood at meadows@highwealdlandscapetrust.org

Editors Notes

Wildflower Turf http://www.wildflowerturf.co.uk/

Founded by the Hewetson-Brown family in 2003, Wildflower Turf Ltd is a privately-owned UK company that has both researched and produced the UK’s first, soil-less growing system for wildflowers and grasses. Wildflower Turf Limited is the UK’s only specialist Wildflower Turf producer. Wildflower Turf Ltd supplies Wildflower Turf to a wide range of organisations across all sectors with a requirement to improve biodiversity in a built environment. The company partners the Meadows Nectar Networks Initiative and The Hampshire & IOW Wildlife Trust, amongst others, in promoting the importance of wildflower and grassland habitats to the wider community.

Meadows Nectar Networks Initiative (MNNI)

For the last 15 years, the Meadows Nectar Networks Initiative (MNNI) has been working to conserve and restore the ancient meadows of South-East England’s High Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Flower-rich meadows have been part of the British landscape for thousands of years.  Semi-natural grasslands depend on sympathetic management, such as mowing for hay, low intensity grazing by livestock, or a combination of both management techniques, vital for the provision of high-quality, sustainable food production. Unimproved pastures contain a wonderful diversity of native wildflowers and grasses providing a vital source of nectar for pollinators and sweet hay for winter feed for grazing animals. MNNI raises the awareness of the value of meadows by demonstrating to the public and landowners what can be achieved to reverse their decline. As a direct result of MNNIs work over the last 15 years, meadows have been recognised, protected, enhanced or created within the Weald utilising native wild harvested local provenance seed.  The initiative was originated by the High Weald AONB at Flimwell and in 2010 transferred to the leadership of the High Weald Landscape Trust (WMI-Weald Meadows Initiative). More recently it has been associated with The Grasslands Trust, now closed.

Weald and Downland Museum

Located in the heart of the South Downs National Park, the award-winning Weald & Downland Open Air Museum has 50 historic building exhibits and is designated by the Government for the outstanding importance of its collections. Exhibits include a medieval farmstead; a working watermill producing wholemeal stoneground flour; exhibitions focusing on traditional building techniques and agriculture; historic gardens, farm livestock and a working Tudor kitchen. The Museum runs a well-established schools programme,and an adult learning programme of courses in building conservation and rural crafts. There is a café which uses the Museum’s own flour and a shop with gifts and books on countryside and buildings themes. The modern Downland Gridshell houses the Museum’s building conservation centre and artefact collection; there is a daily tour at 1.30pm when the Museum is open, and an appointments system for visits to the collections for research purposes.

For further information and photographs contact Carole Richmond on 01243 811014, fax 01243 811475, email marketing2@wealddown.co.uk . Further details about the Museum and its activities are also available on the Museum’s website www.wealddown.co.uk

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