Wildlife set to benefit from Olympics 2012 legacy

Following the successful Wildflower turf laying at Kingsmead Meadow, Calbex Hill, Battle: on the 11October 2012 – please see the Beautiful Battle report.

Background Press Release (9 Oct 2012):

Kingmead_InterpWildlife is 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).  MNNI and Wildflower Turf are set to plant wildflowers and grasses, which were featured at the Olympics, across specially selected UK locations with the aim of promoting regional biodiversity and sustainability.

Wildflower_TurftheOlympicsA pioneer in developing and producing soil-less growing system for wildflowers and grasses, Wildflower Turf Ltd supplied a significant amount of bespoke mix wildflower turf to the London Olympics. The turf was widely featured at the opening ceremony and across a range of sites including the Equestrian centre and the Athletes’ village. Now, through this joint initiative, it will be providing longer-lasting benefits by donating significant quantities of the same unique blend, which will be used in specially-selected locations.

James Hewetson-Brown, Wildflower Turf’s managing director, explains: “We are delighted to donate the special blend of wildflower turf, with 30 different flower seeds and four types of grasses in the hope that the quality, adaptability, flexibility, and long-term environmental and financial rewards it offers will become more widely known. We grew more than we needed for the Olympics, so this is an ideal way to extend the turf’s benefits to the wider community and provide a lasting legacy.

WildflowerTurf_1_web“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.”

Danny Boyle’s ‘Green and Pleasant Land’ theme, highlighted in the opening sequence of the Olympics 2012 showed how wildflower environments are an intrinsic part of Britain’s heritage. A valuable legacy of the Olympics will be to raise widespread awareness of the crisis facing the UK’s meadows and pastures and the wildlife they support.

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 native 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.”

The first site to benefit from the planting will be at an important historical site in Battle, near Hastings, where the wildflower turf will be laid in Kingsmead Meadow, noted for being the site of Harold’s camp the night before the Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066.

Simon Alexander of Beautiful Battle says “Kingsmead is a wonderful recently created wildflower meadow within Battle that will be very much enhanced by the arrival of the Olympic wildflower turf. This turf will be laid on the 946th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings which was of such significance to Battle and, more importantly, to this country as a whole.  Beautiful Battle is delighted to be involved in this project which brings not only an addition of wildflower heritage to Kingsmead but also projects the ethos of the Olympic legacy right into our town.”     Echoing these sentiments Battle’s Town Clerk, Peter Mills, says ” the Town Council fully supports the initiative taken by Beautiful Battle to create an outstanding example of a wildflower meadow so close to the town centre”

The second site to benefit from the donation of the Olympic wildflower turf will be near the restored 17th century Poplar Cottage at the Weald and Downland Museum, Singleton, Chichester. This small thatched and timber framed building was originally located at on the edge of the South Downs on the edge of Washington Common, Sussex, and re-erected at the museum in 1999.

Richard Pailthorpe, Museum Director of the Weald and Downland 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.”

This joint initiative aims to raise awareness of the importance of recreating ancient pastures and wildflower meadows and enable everyone to contribute to protecting and restoring the countryside, parks and gardens as wildlife havens for the UK’s native species.

For more information or for interviews, please call

Loop PR on +44 (0)1252 725 346 or email: louise.evans@loop-pr.co.uk  +44 (0)7891 242476 or 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

Editors Notes

Kingsmead Meadow, Battle.  Kingsmead Meadow is an open public meadow of historical importance, situated on the Weald of Sussex. Over the last four years, the meadow is being restored to species-rich grassland through the combined efforts of the local partnership of Beautiful Battle, High Weald Landscape Trust and the Meadows Nectar Networks Initiative with the support of Rother District Council, who own Kingsmead Meadow, High Weald AONB and the Battle and District Historical Society. The aim is to create an enhanced wildflower meadow using only local provenance seed and, by employing a more appropriate maintenance regime, to achieve a sustainable environment that will increase biodiversity and provide information for visitors on the value of grasslands and traditional farming methods.

Kingsmead Meadow is situated at the top of Caldbec Hill by a windmill with extensive views over the valley to Netherfield Hill. It is of major historical importance as the site where Harold’s armies gathered just before the Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066. The battle marked the last successful foreign invasion of the British Isles with Norman rule being established under King William 1 known as William the Conqueror. The battle marked a step change in English history and much of our laws, literature and civilisation all stem from this great battle, providing the foundation for the UK as we know it today.

Beautiful Battle http://www.beautifulbattle.org/id18.html

Beautiful Battle was formed some eight years ago by a group of people in Battle who hold their town in great regard. We work extremely closely with the Town Council on many horticultural projects throughout the town. These include the new Diamond Jubilee commemorative garden which itself is a follow on from the Silver Jubilee garden of 1977; these gardens are sited within a 100 yards of each other.

The logo was decided upon after a competition amongst local school children and it has helped our group to become almost a household name here. Our volunteers meet every Thursday to garden throughout the town. Our base is the Almonry building which is also the headquarters of Battle Town Council. Our horticultural base is at a local garden nursery within Battle where all preparatory work is done in a large greenhouse. Each year we enter the South East in Bloom competition and often win Gold and Silver Gilt awards for individual gardens and the town as a whole.

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) http://www.highwealdlandscapetrust.org/weald-meadows-initiative.html

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.

Bombus_pascuorum_KingsmeadMNNI 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 MNNI’s 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.

Note to editors: Reporters and photographers welcome.  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.

Facts about Wildflowers and Grasses of the Weald

Betony – late flowering long season hedge bank species

Bird’s-foot Trefoil – attractive low growing wildflower and the common blue butterfly’s food plant and is also favoured by Clouded Yellows

Cowslip – flowers from March – June making this a key species for early foraging invertebrates

Crested Dog’s-tail – one of the classic grasses of meadowland, useful for many moths/ butterflies such as Meadow Brown, Essex, Large and Small Skippers and Small Copper

Knapweed – spring and autumn germinator which is a long season flower useful for a multitude of invertebrates

Oxeye – spring and autumn germinator with impact and useful for many invertebrates

Self- heal – early flowering low growing attractive purple flower

Red Clover – A key species for our declining Bumble Bees, nitrogen fixing good for meadow health

Tufted Vetch – A key species for our declining Bumble Bees and part of the legume family so good for meadow health

Yellow Rattle – an iconic and attractive annual wildflower, excellent for Bumble Bees and meadow diversification as this clever species robs the nutrients from the surrounding grass and aids meadow diversification.

 

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