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Seeding the recovery of the UK’s ailing wildflower meadows

A rescue mission to reverse the decline of our wildflower meadows is working its way across the Welsh countryside.

September 15 2015

Collecting hay at Conwy's new meadow. © Plantlife

Collecting hay at Conwy's new meadow. © Plantlife

By the end of this year, over 550 acres of new meadows will have been created across the UK through the Coronation Meadows Project, with many of them in Wales. Inspired and instigated by HRH The Prince of Wales to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen’s coronation, the project aims to restore meadows across the UK. Coronation Seed collected from healthy donor meadows has been used to create new meadows and restore ailing ones. To date almost 30,000 plug plants have been grown and over 150 volunteers involved in bringing the meadows back to life.

Plantlife, The Wildlife Trusts and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, partners of the Coronation Meadows Project are pleased to report that this summer over 200 acres of wildflower meadow is being restored in the second year of the Coronation Meadows Project, thanks to funding from Biffa Award, Natural Resources Wales and Grantscape. It will bring the total of meadows restored across the UK under the project banner to more than 50. Twelve of those are in Wales and there are more planned for next summer.  As a result new or ailing meadows are now flourishing for the first time in 60 years through the addition of green hay and seed from their counties donor Coronation Meadow, and sympathetic management by land managers. 

Once a common sight across Wales, wildflower meadows are now a rare feature of our countryside. Around a 90% loss of Welsh Lowland Meadow was recorded between the 1930’s and the 1990s with further losses continuing to the present day. Upland hay meadows are even rarer with only 900 ha remaining in the UK. Three quarters of our remaining meadows are tiny fragments – many just a couple of acres - that are vulnerable to ploughing, neglect or development. The Coronation Meadows Project is seeking to help reverse the decline.  

Success Stories in Wales:

  • Record numbers of stunning greater butterfly-orchid have been counted in Gwynedd's Coronation Meadow, Caeau Tan y Bwlch, double the number of last year. Seed from this site has been used to restore three new meadows in the county, with yellow rattle and eyebright being early signs of success. 
  • Pembrokeshire is the latest county where restoration has taken place through the project. Seed from the county Coronation Meadow, Mountain Meadows, has been spread this summer at a nearby farm to begin the process of creating around 3.5 acres of further wildflower–rich meadow in the county. 
  • Work will soon be underway to bring a wildflower meadow back to life in Dyffryn Conwy. After many years advising people on how to restore such meadows, Dr Trevor Dines, Botanical Specialist at Plantlife, will now be getting to work himself, using donor seed from Conwy's Coronation Meadow, Moss Meadow, to restore the wildflower meadow. 

Dr Trevor Dines says “We’ve just taken on a small grassy field that’s been heavily grazed for years. It’s not very rich in flowers but in a few weeks we’ll be getting seed from Moss Hill - the Conwy Coronation Meadow – which is full of yellow rattle, betony, devil’s-bit scabious and even greater butterfly orchids. It’s so exciting that flowers like these will be germinating in our own field soon; it’s like a precious gift from one meadow to another and I can’t wait to see what appears next year.”

Coronation Meadows is one of the most ambitious and exciting programmes of meadow creation ever attempted across the UK. An exciting summer is now in operation, with work underway to create many new meadows: 

  • Restoration works are beginning on 160 acres (65 ha) of new meadow, with 21 new meadows in 21 counties. 
  • These include meadows as far afield as Conwy, Herefordshire, Cornwall, East Yorkshire, Bedfordshire and Greater Manchester.
  • Further restoration is continuing on 86 acres (35 ha) of meadows at 7 sites where restoration began last year.

Visit the Coronation Meadows website.