Lifeline for wildflower meadows

Laura White
Laura White

With wildflower meadows disappearing at an alarming rate through intensive grazing, ploughing and development, the UK has lost 97% of wildflower meadows since the 1930s.

Now a new group ‘Moor Meadows’ has been set up to show how we can all help increase wildflower meadows across Dartmoor and beyond. A wildflower meadow does not have to be a vast field left to nature, it could a small plot of land in your garden.

In a recent day-long conference at Brimpts Farm on Dartmoor experts from across the UK spoke about the need and importance of wild meadows for flowers, bees, insects, animals and birds and how we should use land such as graveyards like St Michael the Archangel in Chagford where, although managed, in certain parts the grass has been allowed to grow high. Some people have asked: ‘Where is the respect for the dead?’ But many have welcomed the efforts to assist the local wildlife population.

During early summer a nine strong team of specialists from University College London (UCL) and Devon spent time in the churchyard recording every species of spider, ant, fly, bee, plant, lichen, moss, bird and small animal found there. These have been given to the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre and the ‘Living Churchyards’ a national scheme which is gathering biodiversity information from churchyards across the UK. During the survey at the Chagford churchyard microscopes and screens were set up in the church so members of the public could see the myriad of insects and beetles found in the churchyard outside.

A national project has been started by the wildlife charity Plantlife to create 300,000 acres of wildflower meadows throughout the country over the next 25 years and for ‘legislative protection’ for that land. With the decline of flowers, seed eating birds such as the corn bunting and harvest mice have seen a dramatic fall in numbers.

Rare flowers such as corn buttercup and the small-flowered catchfly only survive in less than 30 fields in the UK and face extinction in two years. They are being helped now by Plantlife along with RSPB, Buglife Kew Gardens and other organisations which have received funds from
the Lottery.

A council worker in Sidmouth recently mowed the wrong field by mistake and destroyed a nine acre butterfly meadow in the town which made the national news just as Sir David Attenborough launched the ‘The Big Butterfly Count.’

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