Somerset Wildlife Trust putting Somerset meadows back on the map
This year’s National Meadows Day promises to be the biggest yet, with up to 100 events taking place across England, Scotland, N. Ireland and Wales in celebration of ancient wildflower meadows and their wildlife. People in Somerset will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the wonder of a flower-rich meadow on their doorstep.
To celebrate, Somerset Wildlife Trust will be holding two events at its Chancellor’s Farm meadows this weekend – which are not usually open to the public. In the morning you can join a guided walk given by our meadows specialists, who will be on hand to describe the wildflowers, bumblebees and butterflies. In the afternoon, those with an artistic persuasion are welcome to bring along sketchbook or paints for an art afternoon to capture the flowers, colours, wildlife and breathtaking views across the meadows. See our website for more details.
(Booking is essential for both events so please reserve a place by email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Why do meadows matter so much?
Just 100 years ago there would have been a meadow in every Somerset parish, providing grazing and hay for livestock, employment, and food and medicine for the parish. They were part of a community’s centuries-old cultural and social history.
A healthy Somerset meadow can be home to over 150 species of wild plants and flowers compared to much modern grassland, which supports fewer than ten species. In turn, these wild flowers support other meadow wildlife. Bird’s-foot trefoil alone is a food plant for over 150 species of insect, which in turn support birds such as skylarks and lapwings.
No two meadows are alike…
The hay meadows of Somerset have their own characteristic flowers such as yellow rattle, devil’s bit scabious and bird’s-foot trefoil, whereas chalk downland typical of Wiltshire is home to tiny burnt-tip orchid. But this patchwork blanket of colour and character is now starting to look threadbare.
Just 3% of the meadows that existed in the 1930s remain – that’s a loss of 7.5 million acres of wild flower grassland. Only 26,000 acres of classic lowland meadows found across England and Wales are left – just 20% of the area of the New Forest National Park. In Scotland, there is little lowland semi-natural grassland left. Many iconic meadow species such as ragged robin, harebell and field scabious are now on a watch list. Wood-bitter vetch has disappeared from England, Scotland and most of its stronghold in Wales.
National Meadows Day is just one part of Save Our Magnificent Meadows, a UK-wide partnership project, supported thanks to National Lottery players. It’s the UK’s largest partnership project transforming the fortunes of our vanishing wildflower meadows, grasslands and wildlife, led by Plantlife and primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The project is bringing meadows back to life, with the restoration of over 14,000 acres of wildflower meadows across the UK, working with landowners, volunteers, farmers and trainees. Nearly 47,000 people have been actively engaged with the project to date.
Somerset is fortunate to have pockets of good-quality grassland remaining, and is working hard to safeguard and link these sites in nature reserves, co-operating with landowners to restore a range of plant species and creating an exciting programme of activities in which local communities and schoolchildren can get involved.
The Magnificent Meadows partnership would love to hear your experiences of National Meadows Day on social media. What is your favourite local meadow or meadow flower? #meadowsday, and share your love of your local meadows on Twitter or Facebook (search magnificent meadows). For more information about the events taking place on National Meadows Day, please visit www.magnificentmeadows.org.uk.