National Meadows Day - Saturday 2 July
This year's National Meadows Day is promising 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. From meadow discovery days and scything workshops, to storytelling and Bioblitzes, people in the Cotswolds will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the wonder of a flower-rich meadow on their doorstep.
Project Manager Claire Parton from Plantlife says “National Meadows Day, brilliantly supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), is about putting local meadows on the map. We are familiar with our local woodland but for many, meadows are more mysterious - in their full glory for only a few months of the year and more familiar from television or magazines. They are spectacular landscapes to be in and we hope the events going on across the Cotswolds and supported by Cotswolds Conservation Board will act as a catalyst to raise awareness of this increasingly rare and fragile part of our natural heritage."
The Cotswolds Conservation Board will be teaming up with the National Trust at Dyrham Park to celebrate National Meadows Day. There will be storytelling, craft activities, photography, scything and wildflower walks. With the help of expert naturalists, you can join the team of wildlife explorers on a Bioblitz to discover how many species live in Dyrham’s meadow and scientists will be leading drop-in activities in their pop-up field lab.
Why do meadows matter so much?
Just 100 years ago there would have been a meadow in every parish, supporting a way of life that had gone on for centuries. They provided grazing and hay for livestock, employment, and food and medicine for the parish and were part of a community's cultural and social history.
A healthy Cotswold meadow can be home to over 150 species of wild plants and flowers, such as cuckoo flower, yellow rattle, orchids, knapweed and scabious, compared to much modern grassland which supports under 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 meadows of the Cotswolds have their own characteristic flowers such as Rock rose, wild thyme and the nationally rare Pasqueflower; But this patchwork blanket of colour and character is now starting to look threadbare...
Just 3% of the meadows that existed in the 1930’s 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. 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.
Put simply, the decline of meadows and species-rich grasslands says Plantlife's Dr Trevor Dines, is one of the biggest upsets in the history of UK nature conservation, “If 97% of our woodland was destroyed there’d be a national outcry. But meadows have disappeared from our lives gradually and quietly. Without the roar of chainsaws or the sound of mighty oaks crashing to the ground, a meadow can be ploughed up, unnoticed, in an afternoon."
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, co-ordinated 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.
In the Cotswolds the project is restoring wildflower grassland by harvesting seed from species-rich donor meadows. They are also putting on a series of hugely popular practical workshops on grassland restoration and management for landowners and horse owners.
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.