This summer has been all about meadows – their beautiful flowers, the nectar-rich food they provide for our bumblebees, butterflies and moths, and the larder and habitat they provide for many of our most endearing mammals and birds – hares, voles, lapwings and skylarks.
It was an inspiration for the Olympics to plant flower-rich pictorial meadows in the Olympic Park, and to use the beautiful wildflower turf full of native grasses and flowers for the opening Olympic Ceremony. The London 2012 Olympic Games delivered the biggest national television event since current measuring systems began with 27 million watching the opening ceremony. We are now moving into the Paralympics with the opening ceremony tonight and the coverage will continue.
For all of us at The Grasslands Trust who are working to preserve our native meadows and pastures and their associated wildlife species, it is really good news to see the beauty of meadows beamed out to a global audience of millions. The message that has not been included with the visual messaging is the real crisis facing our meadows and pastures and the wildlife they support. Over 97% of our traditional meadows and grasslands have gone and over the last 17 years, an area the size of Bedfordshire has disappeared. Supported species are in significant decline and many of our bumblebees are in serious trouble. Have a look at Bee Strawbridge talking about “An overview of the world of bees & the reasons for their decline”, from her talk at the Green Gathering Festival.
We are now in a time-critical period if we are to save the remaining 3%. Grasslands are vital for our biodiversity, ecosystem services, and enjoyment as communities, individuals and families. A valuable legacy of the Olympics will be for a really raised national awareness of the true situation.
What is really encouraging is all the information that is now available to enable us to grow wildlife-friendly gardens of our own – particularly by planting native flower species, growing our own wild-flower meadows in our orchards and by replacing lawns, and by not using pesticides. Professor Sir Robert Watson, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia and Defra’s chief scientific adviser, in his recent article in The Telegraph has urged gardeners to plant wildflowers to protect native species. He said that “We’ve got [a wild flower field] in Norwich at the University of East Anglia, and the number of butterflies and bees you see there is an order of magnitude above most areas … it looks a bit wild, but it looks beautiful to me.”
There is lots of good information and advice available. Have a look at our website where you will find lots of information under Advice. Other good sites to start with include Marc Carlton’s The Pollinator Garden and the Wildlife Gardening Forum.
The beautiful Welcome Pack, designed by our friend Timi van Houten and with photographs by world-renowned photographer and Grasslands Trust Trustee Bob Gibbons includes a pack of native wildflower seeds and instructions for planting in large and small spaces. Also included is the really useful Guide to Grassland Plants by the Field Studies Council and three postcards featuring lovely photos by Bob.
Together we can restore wildlife-rich meadows, protect our native species and provide beautiful green spaces for us all to enjoy.
Elaine Shaughnessy, Director of Communications