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Meadows offer food and shelter to vast varieties of animals and wildflowers - and must be saved

Laura Briggs

30 June 2017

The Save Our Magnificent Meadows partnership hopes to demonstrate the fragility and importance of our fast-disappearing Great British meadows.

National Meadows Day is dedicated to protecting wildflower meadows

Saving the UK’s meadows and raising public awareness of these vital habitats is the purpose of more than 100 events taking place tomorrow for National Meadows Day, writes Laura Briggs.

 

With the average meadow offering shelter and food to a vast variety of animal species and home to more than 80 species of wildflowers, the Save Our Magnificent Meadows partnership hopes to demonstrate the fragility and importance of our fast-disappearing Great British meadows.

 

More than 97% of our wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s, but encouragingly people are now showing a desire to learn more about our British fauna.

 

A recent YouGov survey for Plantlife revealed that 70% of us want to know more about wildflowers and while most people could identify the bluebell, 80% of people didn’t know the name of the common dog-violet which is found across 97% of the UK.

 

National Meadows Day is dedicated to protecting both the wildflower meadows and the wildlife they support, including endangered species like ragged robin and harebell, and further educating the public about the flora and fauna discovered in these unique landscapes.

 

Meadows would have developed thanks to farming practices, with many people owning small areas of land, and managing the land by growing through spring and summer, cutting in late summer and grazing in winter.

 

With the onset of World War II, cereals were planted across great swathes of land, meaning a decline in the diversity of species, and with it the meadows. The future hope is that one day meadows can be an integral part of farming once again.

 

On July 1 barefoot walks, cycling tours, picnics, scything workshops and wildlife hunts will offer the chance for people to experience these stunning meadows first-hand across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The initiative, spearheaded by Plantlife, is in part thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

 

Claire Parton, Save Our Magnificent Meadows Project Manager, said: "Beyond being a quintessential sight of summer, meadows' value to our wildlife cannot be overstated.

 

“A single healthy meadow can be home to over 80 species of wildflowers, such as cuckoo flower, yellow rattle, orchids, knapweed and scabious, compared to most modern agricultural pasture which typically supports under a dozen species.

 

“In turn, these flowers support meadow wildlife. Common bird’s-foot trefoil alone is a food plant for 160 species of insects, which support mammals and birds such as skylarks and lapwings."

 

There are now only 26,000 acres of classic lowland meadows found across England and Wales and thanks to funding, the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project has managed to create and restore just over 6,000 acres of wildflower meadows across the UK.

 

Plantlife has also launched the interactive Great British Wild Flower Hunt in response to its YouGov survey.

 

Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife Botanical Expert and a meadow owner, said: "The steady, quiet, and under-reported decline of our meadows is one of the biggest tragedies in the history of UK nature conservation. If over 97% of our woodland had been destroyed there’d be a national outcry.

 

“Without the roar of chainsaws or the sound of mighty oaks crashing to the ground, meadows are being ploughed up at an alarming rate. That is why National Meadows Day is so important - now more than ever it is essential to shine a light on these precious habitats and to begin to reverse their decline."

 

Plantlife is the leading organisation working in the UK to protect and conserve wild plants and their habitats. Plantlife identifies and conserve sites of exceptional importance, rescue wild plants from the brink of extinction, and ensure that common plants do not become rare in the wild.

 

Find out more about National Meadows Day at magnificentmeadows.org.uk

 

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