Shropshire Star

National Trust work boosting wildflower meadows

Pasture at conservation sites in Shropshire is filling up with wildflowers as work takes place to restore old hay meadows.


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The National Trust has issued an update on its work in the county, with National Meadows Day taking place on Saturday.

It said that Jinlye Meadows on the Long Mynd is "now a species-rich grassland, alive with pollinators and insects", with an increase in populations of the rare bilberry bumblebee, thanks to diverse mix of nectar sources.

As part of Stepping Stones, a National Trust-led nature recovery project, work to reconnect isolated patches of wildlife habitat, including meadows, and link them up via a network of wildlife corridors such as hedges and roadside verges, is underway across the Long Mynd and Stiperstones.

Yellow rattle seed, known as the ‘Meadow Maker’, is a critical plant species for the creation of a successful wildflower meadow.

The plant slows down the growth of various grasses by attaching itself to the root system, which makes more room for a diverse range of wildflower species to grow in the meadow.

The Stepping Stones team is calling out for volunteers to help collect Yellow Rattle seed from Jinlye Meadows in All Stretton from 2pm to 4pm on July 9 and 10.

Jinlye Meadows in June. Picture: Maria Darlington

Last summer, wildflower seed, collected from Jinlye, was sown at Mose Farm on the Dudmaston Estate.

One year on, the fields are now teeming with wildflowers and pollinating insects.

The National Trust is working with tenant farmer, Martyn Bebb to restore areas of acid grassland and heathland habitat at Mose Farm, as part of the Sandscapes project.

Across the three counties of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire, Sandcapes is restoring areas of sandy soils to re-establish rare or extinct species associated with heathlands, a ‘priority habitat’ which is fading fast from the British countryside.

Martyn Bebb, National Trust tenant farmer said: “Being a farmer is always about striking a balance. I’m responsible for making sure this land is working for everyone; for me, my family, for nature and wildlife. I have to make a living but equally, we’re starting to see the impact intensive farming is having on our landscape and the wildlife that call it home. Change is always hard work but we must learn to adapt.

“The block of arable we’re taking out is about 160 acres. It’s quite marginal arable ground, and poorer quality. It’s mixed in with permanent grassland and a block of woodland that’s right in the middle of the project area.

“When we’ve finished it should be a mixed mosaic of heathland, acidic grassland and wood pasture, which will benefit a host of wildlife. Elsewhere on the farm, we’re retaining some arable land, namely some six metre field margins and over-winter stubble.”

Rickyard meadow at Mose Farm on the Dudmaston Estate. Picture: James Lawrence

Charlie Bell, Project Manager for Stepping Stones said: “We’re really proud of the nature-recovery work we’re doing in South Shropshire but we also know that nature needs a helping hand to keep these success stories coming. Sadly, meadows are in trouble.

"In the UK, 97 per cent have been lost, mostly in the last 100 years. Many old meadows have been ploughed up and re-seeded with more productive mixes of grasses.

"Fertilisers are often added to increase the growth of these dominant productive grasses, at the expense of finer grass species and wildflowers. This loss has had a devastating impact on the plants and animals that use meadows for shelter, food and places to raise their young.

"But, there is still hope. Donate to the project today on the Stepping Stones website. £15 will buy 100g of Yellow Rattle seed – a vital plant species for meadow restoration.

"Anyone can make a mini meadow in their garden by limiting the use of their lawn mower from late spring into early summer. You may have noticed signs saying ‘Late Cut Planned’ on your local roadside verges. Verges offer a great opportunity to create long, linear meadows that connect other fragmented patches of habitat.”

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