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Battle to save Britain’s “Magnificent Meadows”

Plantlife receives funding from the Heritage Lottery fund allowing them to transform the fortunes of our wildflower meadows and grasslands that have rapidly declined.

April 04 2012

Maiden pink, one of many wildflowers who's fortunes the project hopes to improve ©Andrew Gagg/Plantlife

Maiden pink, one of many wildflowers who's fortunes the project hopes to improve ©Andrew Gagg/Plantlife

Plantlife learned today that it has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Saving Our Magnificent Meadows project.

The project is seeking to transform the fortunes of the UK’s wildflower-rich meadows and grasslands - only 2% of the meadows and grasslands that existed in the 1930s remain (more than three million hectares lost, mostly due to a great change in the management of land for food production during and in the decades after the Second World War).

Iconic species such as cowslip, early purple orchid, barn owl, skylark, brown hare, harvest mouse, greater horseshoe bat, adonis blue butterfly and short-haired bumblebee are dependent on these habitats and have suffered correspondingly dramatic declines.

Mark Reay from Plantlife said: “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us and our partner organisations this support. The UK’s wildflower meadows and grasslands are facing a very uncertain future so a partnership of conservation organisations has come together to do something about it."

Wildflower meadows are an intrinsic part of the UK’s natural and cultural heritage - they are rich in wildlife, landscape character, folklore and history and they provide a range of other benefits for society. Once lost, this heritage is irreplaceable.

"Meadows provide a fascinating story that people can relate to" continues Mark Reay. "Many older and middle-aged people have vivid memories of walking through beautiful wildflower meadows filled with butterflies and birdsong when they were young, but this is not an experience that the vast majority of younger people have had and that is a very sad state of affairs.”

The Saving Our Magnificent Meadows project specifically aims to:

  • Deliver emergency conservation action to safeguard remaining and restore new areas of meadow habitat
  • Raise awareness of the plight of meadows with the public
  • Provide exciting new opportunities for people to the learn about and enjoy the UK’s meadow heritage

Development funding of £145,900 has also been awarded to help Plantlife and 10 partner organisations progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date. Plantlife will lead a nationally-coordinated programme of action to save the remaining areas of wildflower-rich meadow which will see:

  • Emergency conservation interventions at nine strategic landscape areas across the UK
  • 9,000 hectares of the UK’s most threatened meadows and grasslands directly safeguarded (5% of remaining habitat) and a further 21,000 hectares brought into long-term conservation management through the influence of the project
  • More than 15,000 people across the UK learning about meadows or participating in efforts to save them

The landscape areas to receive local level attention include the Fermanagh grasslands of Northern Ireland, the pastures of west Wales, the East Lothian lowland meadows, the calaminarian grasslands of Northumberland and a number of traditional meadow and grassland areas in southern England.