[W]ildflower meadows at a South Lakeland nature reserve were given a boost recently by a group of enthusiastic local volunteers, who have planted no fewer than 6,500 wildflower plants in four meadows.
Over four community planting days, 26 volunteers planted important meadow species at Hay Bridge Nature Reserve, such as great burnet, wood crane’s-bill and lady’s mantle, to enhance the existing wildflower meadows. Planting them in autumn allows time for the roots to establish over winter, giving them a greater chance of competing with the existing layers of grass in spring. The fields will then be managed as traditional hay meadows, with the late summer hay-cut allowing the flowers to set their seeds and increase in number and diversity over time.
Children from local schools helped with the wildflower planting and also took part in wildflower workshops. Christa Nelson, Grassland Conservation Officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said: “It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the volunteers and great that children also took part in the project. We hope this will increase their appreciation, enjoyment and understanding of hay meadows.”
Christa explains why it’s important to look after hay meadows: “They have been in serious decline nationally since the 1950s and this is just one of several projects we have run at the Trust, to restore them. Hay meadows are important not just for the plants they support, but they can provide habitats for many different animals, including the brown hare, insects such as the great yellow bumble bee, and birds such as skylark, curlew, lapwing and twite.”
The wildflower planting days were part of the Rusland Horizons Landscape Partnership Scheme’s Magical Meadows project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Nurture Lakeland, and delivered by Cumbria Wildlife Trust. Kendal Conservation Volunteers and Rusland Horizons apprentices assisted with the planting. Two scything workshops have also been held during the summer, providing volunteers with practical scything skills for the management of grasslands.
Find out more about how Cumbria Wildlife Trust is supporting hay meadows in Cumbria at www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk and go to ‘What We Do’.