In my last blog I talked about the plethora of enquiries we had received about creating wildflower meadows in gardens. Although this is the most common enquiry, we receive all sorts of other requests for advice. Some we can help with and others are beyond our field of expertise. In such cases we are always happy to sign post to other organisations that may be better placed to advise.
For example we had a request from a teacher for information on the effects of grazing long horn cattle on common land. We pointed her to the Grazing Advice Partnership and Rare Breeds Survival Trust and heard back later that this had led her to several useful lines of enquiry. A wildlife group in the uplands of Wales wanted to know about the best nectar sources for bees and other insects and we put them in touch with their local project officer at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust who provided the answers to all their questions.
We’ve been very heartened in the increased numbers of requests from community groups, parish and county councils keen to develop meadow areas in public spaces. However there are occasions when restoring or creating a wildflower meadow is not the best answer. Meadow species don’t thrive in dense, permanent shade so rather than struggling to get meadow flowers established on a very dark site you would be better off seeking out shade loving plants that will flourish in these sorts of conditions.
And we recently had one request from someone who owns a five acre hay meadow in Gloucestershire and wanted advice about diversifying the species present. They also told us of a larger site they were hoping to acquire where they had recorded Red hemp-nettle. Red hemp-nettle (Galeopsis angustifolia) is classified as Critically Endangered as it is now found in only a few dozen places in the wild. Increased herbicide and fertiliser use are two of the main causes of its dramatic decline over the last sixty years. It grows to 30cm tall and flowers between June and October.
Our Director of Conservation was very excited to hear about this find and advocated creating an area focussing on arable flowers rather than a wildflower meadow. The enquirer managed to harvest 700 seeds from the single plant they had found so hopefully are off to a good start.
If you have a meadow related query then we suggest taking a look at our advice leaflets which can all be downloaded free and contain lots of useful hints and suggestions for creating, restoring and managing grasslands on all scales.
Deborah Alexander, Conservation Assistant