Posted 13th Jun 2014
From 14th to 15th June is The Wildlife Trusts' Our Meadow Wildlife Weekend, the second in a series of weekends happening throughout the year dedicated to celebrating our brilliant British wildlife. With lots of exciting events going on and plenty of meadows to explore, there's no better time to get out and enjoy nature
Traditional meadows and the wild plants, flowers and creatures they support have been disappearing at an alarming rate over recent decades, but The Wildlife Trusts are inviting the nation to celebrate those that are left this summer. This weekend why not meander through those meadows that remain and re-discover the pleasures to be enjoyed and the species to be found within them.
Young and old alike are invited to seek out events being held in surviving wildflower meadows, so that wherever you live and whatever your interest might be – dragonfly spotting in Devon, looking for mini-beasts in the Belfast Hills or searching for heath spotted orchids in Hampshire – there will be opportunities somewhere nearby to enjoy the magic of the meadow. A great place to start your search is The Coronation Meadows website. This project is led by Plantlife in partnership with The Wildlife Trusts and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
Last year saw the launch of this remarkable nationwide project – an idea suggested by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales – for a meadow in every county across the UK to mark the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation. This exciting initiative celebrates our surviving meadows with a flagship Coronation Meadow in each county in Britain. These 'jewels in the crown' are places where people can enjoy a riot of colour and an abundance of wildlife in settings that have remained largely unchanged since the Coronation 61 years ago, and a lot longer too.
Coronation Meadows are outstanding examples of flower-rich grasslands, surviving fragments that support our wildlife and which are often the result of years of careful management by generations of one family. Many have an annual hay cut and are grazed by hardy, native breeds of livestock. Coronation Meadows also reflect the local character of the landscape; Martins’ Meadow in Suffolk has green-winged orchids and meadow saffron, whilst Cae Blaen-dyffryn in Carmarthenshire has whorled caraway and thousands of lesser butterfly-orchids.
Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said: 'Our remaining traditional meadows are so precious. They can contain up to 120 flowering plant species, providing a vital source of nectar for bees and butterflies and habitat for birds, brown hares, grass snakes, grasshoppers, moths and many other species. We are determined to protect the meadows that remain and the wildlife they support. The more we can do to raise awareness of both and show people the benefits they bring, the more we will be able to guarantee their survival for generations to come.'
Celebrity supporter Bill Oddie, Vice-President of The Wildlife Trusts, said: 'A meadow offers the complete sensory experience: the colours of the flowers and butterflies; the buzzing of the insects and the songs of birds; the scents and perfumes of the herbs. They are food for thought and nourishment for the soul.
'Every wild flower belongs to a family, but which is which? Every flower has a name, how did it get it? Was it used for medicinal purposes, and if so what? Is it lovely to look at or delightful to smell?'
Bill lists his own top three meadow creatures as:
Hares – 'A magic animal that can disappear and reappear before your very eyes. Ancient people thought they were witches!'
Daddy long legs (crane fly) – 'On certain days in September the grass is suddenly alive with them, and swallows skim low to fuel up before their flights south. They must eat hundreds, there’s not a lot of meat on a crane fly!'
Barn Owl – 'Okay, they nest in barns, but they spend a lot of time doing their ghostly patrolling over meadows, particularly appreciated since, despite being an owl, they often fly in daylight, or at dusk or dawn.'
You can download a guide to 40 great places to see wild flower meadows by clicking here.
Here are our top tips for celebrating The Wildlife Trusts’ Meadow Wildlife Weekend (14th to 15th June):
1. Find out about different kinds of meadow including upland hay meadow, lowland meadow, grassland, purple moor grass and rush pasture, and machair.
2. Once inspired, set out on your own meadow walk – choose one of many great places to see wildflower meadows. Don’t forget your spotting sheet!
3. Make your own pooter to help you discover meadow wildlife.
4. Go to one of The Wildlife Trusts meadow events.
5. When you’re back at home, consider growing your own mini meadow.
To find out more on The Wildlife Trusts’ Meadow Wildlife Weekend visit
To find out more on The Wildlife Trusts' other Wildlife Weekends, visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/weekends.
Images courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts: Jon Hawkins, Jim Higham