It’s National Meadows Day today, an annual celebration of wildflower meadows across the UK. The event takes place on the first Saturday of July each year.
At present Britain’s species-rich meadows are just a tiny fraction of the area they covered a hundred years ago. We have lost 7.5 million acres of traditional meadows to modern agricultural practices and urbanisation.
Monoculture, the growing of single-species crops over enormous acreages, sprayed annually with insecticides and herbicides, has created deserts for our wildflowers and our wildlife. Any species adaptable enough to thrive among a hundred acres of wheat is treated as a pest and destroyed.
Monoculture: wheat and rye grass as far as the eye can see.
The Friends of Southwick Country Park and Wiltshire’s Countryside Team, with the help of our tenant farmer, have worked very hard over many years to improve the park’s meadows. The fields support hundreds of different species of grass and wildflowers and the grass and wildflowers support thousands of invertebrate species.
Perhaps because the Decorated Bridge cannot support the weight of large modern farm machinery, Village Green is particularly rich in wildflowers. This year it has been cut for hay, sweet-smelling, full of clover, yarrow and cinquefoils and without a trace of ragwort. Look out for the baler this weekend; it’s going to be perfect hay making weather.
species-rich meadow grass in the park
While we must protect old grassland, with its complex ecology of interactions between plants and invertebrates, we must also attempt to replace what has been lost. Every garden can support a little patch of wild grasses and flowers; every town and parish council can turn otherwise unused and un-regarded corners into valuable wildlife resources.
Britain has lost a frightening percentage of its invertebrates, and habitat loss is thought to be one of the major contributors. Yes, let’s celebrate the meadows we have but let’s also use National Meadow Day to think about how we can restore some of what has been lost.
meadow grass in the park by DKG