Celebrating National Meadows Day – Saturday 1st July

Meadow at Bickley Hall Farm c. Claire Huxley

This summer, Cheshire Wildlife Trust is encouraging everyone to celebrate the beauty and tranquillity that meadows create - starting from this Saturday, (1st July), which is National Meadows Day.

National Meadows Day celebrates wildflower grasslands and provides a great opportunity for Cheshire Wildlife Trust to raise awareness of the importance of meadow habitats to wildlife in the region.

The Trust runs its headquarters at Bickley Hall Farm, as an organic wildlife-friendly farm with its own meadows, and also has a dedicated heritage meadow at its reserve near Holmes Chapel, called Swettenham Meadows.

At Bickley Hall Farm, the meadows are cut at the end of July each year, to give late flowering meadow plants a chance to grow, flower and set seed. This provides pollinators with food throughout the spring and summer and gives ground nesting birds the best chance possible of rearing their chicks. A tenth of each meadow is also left uncut to provide a refuge for invertebrates. After cutting, the meadows are grazed by cattle, which helps prevent dominant, competitive plant species taking over.

Yellow rattle c. Claire Huxley

Yellow rattle c. Claire Huxley

In 2016, the Trust started a project to restore meadow habitats at its Swettenham Meadows nature reserve, with support from the national Coronation Meadows scheme. There is already a marked difference in the diversity of plant species following this work, of which the fourteen resident butterfly species that have been recorded on site, will likely benefit. Dane-in-Shaw Pasture, in Congleton was used as the seed donor site by the Trust to establish its restored meadow at Swettenham. This site was chosen not only because it is a designated Coronation Meadow site, but also because through using locally sourced seed the Trust could help conserve the local gene pool of the wildflower population. Seed was also taken from this site to be grown on as plug plants. These will be planted this Autumn at Swettenham to further diversify the meadow.

Martin Varley, Conservation Director, at Cheshire Wildlife Trust, is excited about the projects that the Trust has already embarked on to promote and conserve this import environment. “Changes in farming practices and a lack of awareness around the importance of grasslands has resulted in the loss of 99% of our region’s meadows, in just 60 years. Not surprisingly, many grassland specialist pollinators such as bees, butterflies, hoverflies and moths are also in rapid decline. Insect-feeding small mammals and birds such as the yellow wagtail, lapwing and skylark have all also been impacted by the losses. We are already hard at work to try and turn this around but there is always more to do.”

Erni Upton painting

Erni Upton painting

This year, The Trust wants to create a new 12-acre hay meadow at Bickley, and is committed to restoring 247 acres of species-rich grassland in Cheshire, within the next 10 years. “To achieve this we need people’s support,” said Joe Pimblett, Area East Co-ordinator, at Cheshire Wildlife Trust. “We have just launched our ‘Save Our Marvellous Meadows Appeal’ which we hope everyone will get behind. Many of us can remember the beautiful floral meadows of Cheshire from years gone by – it would be great for all of us, and especially wildlife, if they were to prosper again. We have already received some amazing support to get the campaign started. Design company, Off the Grid, from Shavington, have helped us create some lovely illustrations to support our campaign, and local artist, Erni Upton has generously donated a beautiful meadow painting which is being auctioned to raise funds towards our appeal.”

Erni Upton’s original oil painting of Dane-in-Shaw pasture, in Congleton, is going to be auctioned by Peter Wilson Fine Art Auctioneers, in Nantwich on Thursday 6th July at 11am, to raise funds for the appeal. Viewings are taking place daily from Sunday 2nd July.

If you would like to support Cheshire Wildlife Trust and its save our marvellous meadows appeal visit their website at www.cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/meadowsappeal.