Across our landscape, we are fortunate that small fragments of wild flower-rich meadows and grasslands still survive. Once the colourful mantle of our green and pleasant land, a staggering 97% of meadows have been lost since the 1930s. If that’s difficult to picture, it’s an area equivalent to 1.5 times the size of Wales.
In 2012, Plantlife published Our Vanishing Flora, a report highlighting the loss of wild flowers from individual counties across Great Britain since the Coronation. In his foreword for the report, our Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales called for the creation of new wild flower meadows, at least one in every county, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation.
The Coronation Meadows Project, led by Plantlife and in partnership with The Wildlife Trusts and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, is working to achieve this vision. In September 2016 we created the 90th New Coronation Meadow in the heart of London, bringing the total area of new meadows created to over 1000 acres.
Coronation Meadows is now the largest meadow creation project in Britain.
Through the project, Plantlife has created new meadows using seed from Ancient Coronation Meadows that are our Nature Reserves:
Celebrate our surviving meadows by identifying a flagship Ancient Coronation Meadow in each county in Britain. These ‘jewels in the crown’ are places where people can enjoy a riot of colour and an abundance of wildlife in settings that have remained largely unchanged since the Coronation.
Create New Coronation Meadows in the same county, using seed from the Ancient Coronation Meadows. In this way, some of the unique character and identity of each meadow is preserved. The new meadows will provide new homes for bees, butterflies and other pollinators, helping to secure our wild flower heritage for the next 60 years and beyond.
Encourage people to discover meadows local to them; to visit and enjoy them, celebrate their beauty, recognise their importance and to get involved with their conservation.
Green-winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio)
Perhaps the most iconic orchid of our lowland wildflower meadows, thousands of flower spikes can colour ancient meadows in early spring. Look closely and you’ll see it’s wonderfully variable, with pale, dark and even pure white flowers in any population. All of them, though, have the green-veined hood that gives them their name. Lost from a great many sites, it’s now regarded as vulnerable to extinction in England.
Ragged-Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)
Turning many a damp meadow frothy pink in summer, this familiar and popular wildflower has really suffered from the drainage and ‘improvement’ of meadows pastures for agriculture. Surprisingly, it is now regarded as ‘Near Threatened’ in England, being one of a group of species described as ‘widespread but declining’. Did you know it’s a popular garden plant?
Eyebrights (Euphrasia species)
These delightful little annuals are so-named because their flowers resemble bruised eyes and were once thought to be able to brighten them again. There are over 20 different species and subspecies (and innumerable hybrids) but some of these, such as English Eyebright (Euphrasia arctica) and Little Kneeling Eyebright (Euphrasia confusa) are now under threat.
How's it going?
The Coronation Meadows project is launched by HRH The Prince of Wales at Highgrove. The first 60 Ancient Coronation Meadows – one in each of 60 counties – are announced.
Work gets underway immediately to start the programme of meadow creation using seed from the donor Ancient Coronation Meadows.
By the end of the year, 17 New Coronation Meadows are created.
One year on, and Ancient Coronation Meadows are identified for all counties in England and Wales.
In the autumn, 28 New Coronation Meadows are created.
The programme of meadow creation continues, along with training events to learn how to create meadows, monitor changes in vegetation, and even how to scythe (photo below © Sarah Robinson, Forest of Bowland AONB)!
In the autumn, 19 New Coronation Meadows are created.
In the autumn, 25 New Coronation Meadows are created, bringing the total to 89.
In September, HRH The Prince of Wales helps seed the 90th Coronation Meadow, which is created in Green Park, central London. To celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, it is christened The Queen’s Meadow.
In all, over 1000 acres of new meadow have now been created through the Coronation Meadows project.
Over 50,000 plug plants have been grown at 11 special on-site nurseries for planting out in the new Coronation Meadows
Nearly 1000 volunteers have been involved in bringing the new meadows back to life, undertaking range of tasks including haymaking, spreading green hay, hand collection of wildflower seed and surveying meadows for orchids and other flowers.
Who are we working with?
Biffa Award (funder)
Hamamelis Trust (funder)
High Weald Landscape Trust (funder)
His Grace the Duke of Westminster (funder)
Michael Chowen (funder)
Natural England (funder)
Natural Resources Wales (funder)
Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing (funders)
See a New Coronation Meadow being created...