Wildflower-rich meadows and grasslands are precious places for wildlife. A lifeline for bumblebees, butterflies and other pollinating insects, meadows are also a food source for seed-eating birds, offer shelter for small mammals and provide hunting grounds for bats and insect-eating birds.
Where wildflowers thrive, they also offer a rainbow of beautiful colour to bring a little joy to our lives.
But traditional wildflower meadows have vanished from much of our countryside. Nationwide, a staggering 97% of flower-rich grasslands have been lost since the 1930s. In our county, the ‘Culm grasslands’ of northern Devon are our most important places for wildflowers and the wild creatures they support – yet these too declined by around 90% during the 20th century.
However, all is far from lost! Although some wildflower meadows have been lost to built development, the majority have disappeared due to changes in land management, especially the intensification of farming after the Second World War. So, by restoring wildflower meadows, and working with landowners to manage them to benefit wildlife, we can bring back colour and life to Devon’s countryside.
And in recent years, techniques have been perfected to re-create wildflower-rich grasslands, approaches Devon Wildlife Trust has used with great success. But to grow this success, we need your support to create more meadows!
How do we re-create meadows on farmland?
It is important to source wildflower seed from a site as close as possible to the place where the seeds are to be sown.
Once a ‘donor’ meadow is located there are two methods we use to harvest the wildflower seed. One is using ‘green hay’, where we cut and bale an existing meadow, while the grasses and flower stems are still fresh and green, then spread it on the bare ground of the ‘receptor’ site. This all needs to be done within an eight-hour window before the cut hay heats up, potentially destroying the seed.
A less time-pressured method involves using a brush harvester. This clever bit of machinery is towed across the donor field while its rotating brushes flick wildflower seed into its hopper. The seed is cleaned twice on site then dried slowly in a barn, before we undertake the dusty job of ‘riddling’ it – separating the chaff from the seed - and then bagging it up.
There’s a further positive in urban areas too: species-poor grassy areas in towns and cities can also be transformed – with a little money and time – into carpets of colourful wildflowers. Parks and road verges, roundabouts and railway stations, community orchards and communal gardens have all been brought to life by DWT in Exeter, thanks to some wildflower seed and sympathetic land management.
Every restored meadow or new area of urban wildflower grassland benefits wildlife. After a record-breaking year for wildflower seed harvesting and meadow-creation in 2018, this year we need to do more – and that’s why we need your help.
By supporting this Crowdfunder, you can also start your own wildflower mini-meadow, with a pack of the same wildflower seed mix used by Devon Wildlife Trust on many Exeter sites.
Where are we creating meadows in 2019?
DWT restores and re-creates wildflower meadows in the following places:
- The Avon Valley, in the South Hams
- The Culm grasslands of northern Devon, particularly in the Torridge
- Around greater horseshoe bat maternity roosts, especially on the southern edge of Dartmoor, the South Hams and the Tamar Valley, where meadows attract insects that become prey for adult bats and their young
- Exeter’s urban green spaces
- On land close to DWT nature reserves where we harvest wildflower seed, especially sites on Dartmoor and northern Devon
But this year, we need to raise at least £6,000 toward the costs of wildflower meadow restoration, including:
- Creating two wildflower-rich areas as part of the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project. We need to create more diverse wildflowers on a site between the maternity roosts of Buckfastleigh and Bovey Tracey. We also need to sow wildflower seeds in a community orchard near Dartington, where greater horseshoe bat flights have been recorded.
- Connecting wildflower-rich areas in Exeter. We plan to link up the existing urban meadows to make a colourful network of green spaces linked by wildflower road verges. We hope to introduce yellow rattle to some verges in the same way we restore meadows in rural areas and use more perennial plants. This should make meadows more long-lasting – and the joined-up wildflower-rich corridors will be even better for pollinators.
- Harvesting wildflower seed from DWT nature reserves including Bellever Moor and Meadows, Vealand Farm, Dunsdon and Volehouse Moor. These will be used to create 22 hectares (54 acres) of wildflower-rich grassland in land across five river catchments: the Tamar, Dart, Exe, Otter and Barnstaple Yeo.
- Last but not least, expanding the wildflower meadow creation as seen in the film above, in the Avon Valley. This year, we are aiming to reach 100 acres of restored wildflower meadow in the Avon Valley, including six new sites.
Free wildflower seeds for you!
All pledges of at least £10 will receive a pack of wildflower seeds, of the same mix used by DWT on road verges, roundabouts and in parks. Pledge at least £15 and choose your wildflower gardening guide – starting with how to make a meadow, or for higher pledges there are additional booklets on gardening for bats or gardening for bees.
Help us create a blooming wild Devon – please pledge your support today!