Meadow and Grasslands Award 2016
In 2016, Save Our Magnificent Meadows launched a search to celebrate the work of communities who are setting a fantastic example of how to protect our meadow heritage, inspiring others to follow suit. Here are the results:
Winner – Wylam Community Orchard, Northumberland
Wylam is a commuter village about 10 miles from Newcastle surrounded by fields and woods, and the establishment of a Community Orchard and wild flower meadow has served to encourage more local wildlife. The Community Orchard started in 2009 and is situated in the grounds of Wylam First School. The project has developed in partnership with the school giving the children an opportunity to experience and understand the natural world as part of their everyday education.
In 2011 the community group was inspired, by visiting a nearby wildflower meadow, to create one at the orchard. They grew seed into plug plants that were transplanted throughout the orchard and there has been an increase in flowers, grasses, butterflies, moths and bats. This summer saw an abundance of yellow-rattle, ox-eye daisy, meadow buttercup, black knapweed, and meadow vetchling in the summer.
Alison Fisher, biodiversity leader for the community group, sums the work of the community group by saying that ‘we now host many visitors to our Orchard and feel we can pass on experience to others, and in 2015 the school Headteacher spoke at the ‘Fruit on the Tyne’ conference about how the orchard and meadow are integrated into teaching the national curriculum. Our vision is of a meadow of where the natural webs of life grow ever more diverse and complex, a lovely meadow buzzing with activity which will stimulate the imagination and enthusiasm of generations of children.’
Runner up – Friends of Francesca’s Meadow, Shropshire
The meadow was established to celebrate the life of local ecologist Francesca Griffith who died in January 2014. The aim was to turn an area of semi-improved grassland at Preston Montford Field Centre near Shrewsbury into a traditionally managed wild flower rich hay meadow that can be open to the public, as well as involve as many local people in its establishment and management. Work started in the summer of 2014, with the area prepared and locally sourced green hay spread throughout, followed by aftermath grazing with sheep. This was an area dominated by vigorous grasses, but after only one year (in 2015) the meadow results were very promising with a higher diversity of wildflowers and significant amounts of yellow-rattle and eyebright with cowslip in flower for the first time for at least twenty years.
From the beginning the group wanted this to be a meadow for the community, an educational resource and for nature conservation. They involved as many experts as possible to make sure the meadow was managed using the most up to date scientific thinking, whilst making the process accessible and engaging. The local community has had a lot of fun learning about wildflower identification, hay meadows and how they are under so much threat and how they were traditionally managed including a workshop with scythes.
Mike Ashton, from Friends of Francesca’s Meadow, summarises some of the activities that the group has held “Children have enjoyed trying out the baler and throwing green hay at each other! Whilst Masters Degree students from Manchester Metropolitan University have used the meadow as the site for their dissertation projects and A-level students have learned about meadow management and botanical surveying using the meadow as a source of inspiration. The local community has had a lot of fun learning about wildflower identification, hay meadows and why they are under so much threat and how they were traditionally managed including with scythes. Each time we have held an event we have asked people to bring along food and drink to share and we have had a picnic afterwards.”