Meadows, with their beautiful flowers and grasses, provide nectar-rich food for our bumblebees, butterflies and moths, as well as habitat and larder for many of our most endearing mammals and birds.
Flower-rich meadows have been part of the British landscape for thousands of years. Managed in traditional ways through hay-making and grazing rather than the intensive farming methods of today, these unimproved pastures contain a wonderful diversity of native wildflowers and grasses, vital for supporting the bumblebees and other pollinating insects that feed on them. Oxeye daisy, Bird’s-foot trefoil, Betony, Yellow Rattle, Self-heal and Red Clover mix with meadow grasses such as the Crested dog’s-tail and Sweet Vernal grass providing an important source of nectar for pollinators and sweet hay for winter feed for grazing animals.
For the last 20 years, the Weald Meadows Partnership (WMP) has been working to conserve and restore the ancient meadows of South-East England’s High Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With a landscape of rolling hills, woodlands and field systems that date back to Anglo-Saxon times, the High Weald is home to several kinds of grassland butterflies including the Common Blue, Dingy Skipper, and Small Copper, Bumblebees, moths and hoverflies are among important pollinators feeding here and the Barn Owl, Green Woodpecker and Skylark are often seen. Frogs, bats, voles and hedgehogs are among the wide variety of species contributing to this area of high biodiversity.
Semi-natural grasslands depend on sympathetic management, such as mowing for hay, low intensity grazing by livestock, or a combination of both management techniques. They are vital for the provision of high-quality, sustainable food production. From the 1950’s, the management of unimproved grasslands changed radically with the advent of fertilisers and herbicides and the introduction of more productive ryegrasses and efficient drainage systems. The wide variety of nectar-rich meadow plants which prefer poorer and unimproved soils were gradually lost, impacting significantly on the species-rich populations they support.
The Weald Meadows Partnership raises the awareness of the value of meadows by demonstrating to the public and landowners what can be achieved to reverse their decline, in the hope that others will follow this amazing example! 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 (WMNN), now sadly no more.
Over the last 20 years the WMP has developed a wide range of knowledge and expertise that has helped stem the decline of traditional grassland and ensure the successful establishment of new species-rich meadows. As a direct result, many meadows have been recognised, protected, enhanced or created within the Weald utilising native wild harvested local provenance seed.
Today, the WMP provides practical support to landowners with the management, enhancement and creation of lowland meadow across the Weald. Consultant Dawn Brickwood undertakes all contact and carries out surveys, produces plans and advises on grants, runs or attends events and co-ordinates the wild harvesting of meadow seeds for banking, projects and supply of Weald Native Origin Seed.
All seed is wild harvested in the Weald (or Downland) and is of local provenance
Weald Meadows Partnership Work Examples:
- In spring 2013 – 104 unimproved grassland SNCIs in the High Weald AONB were reviewed and this resulted in 95 sites ownership information and management status being updated – read more in the SNCI Grassland Report
- In summer 2013 – 100 meadows were reviewed by the project (with many visited) for a national inventory amounting to support, or addtional information for 525ha of grassland
- 23 ha of unimproved wildflower meadows were wild seed harvested in the summer of 2015 for Weald Native Origin Seed (WNOS) mixes and single species
- WMP & Services helped secure local two Coronation Meadows designations in 2013 and one direct seed transference operation. As a follow up the project then supported and applied for ongoing funding to use local CMs as donor sites; to enable the 2014 -2016 enhancement of three new meadows in each of the counties including; East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey.
For more information please contact Dawn Brickwood on 07863 081281 or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org