A Celebration of Meadows

A Celebration of Meadows

Nick Turner

Every week it seems there’s another special ‘day’ to celebrate. We bounce from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, from National Volunteer’s Day to National Almond Buttercrunch Day (yes, really!) But arguably there is none that is more vital to us, to our children - to the future of the planet, even - than National Meadows Day, which falls this year on Saturday 3 July.

This celebration of the UK’s wildflower meadows is a chance for us all to revel in these wonderful habitats. A single meadow can host over 100 species of wildflowers, such as cuckoo flower, yellow rattle, over twenty species of orchids, knapweed and scabious. Compare this to most modern agricultural pasture, which is likely to support less than 12 species. In turn, these flowers support meadow wildlife. Take common birds-foot trefoil - it’s a food source for 160 species of insects, which support mammals and birds such as skylarks and lapwing.

Yet meadows are catastrophically under threat, with 97% being lost since the 1930s. Yes, you did read that right. Meadows need all the special ‘days’ they can get.

Thankfully, awareness is rising about their importance, and growing numbers of people are stepping in to fight for them. Wildflower meadows are a key priority for us at Avon Wildlife Trust, and we have a myriad of projects designed to give them a boost.

Our Wild About Wildflowers challenge is a case in point. Supported by our partners, energy company Western Power Distribution, five local schools took a delivery last spring of 100 wildflower plants from our wildflower nursery, Grow Wilder. The vision was to transform parts of their play areas into flower-rich grasslands - and the good news is, it’s happened! Our Learning Team visited one of the participating schools recently and were bowled over at the sight of their thriving mini-meadow – it’s a haven for wildlife, and a valuable gift for a generation of local children.

Meanwhile, Bristol’s College Green is bringing hope to the city centre as the ‘rewilding’ project which was launched there earlier in the year bursts into glorious life.  Again, Grow Wilder was pivotal, providing 1800 wildflower plugs to be planted on the site. This was achieved by some of our My Wild City volunteers over the course of a wonderful spring day, and the results are now there for all to see: a riot of colour, attracting pollinators including solitary bees, beetles, bumble bees, that will in turn support more insect-feeding birds.

If you want to give meadows and their dependent species a helping hand, but without getting that hand muddy, how about taking part in some citizen science? The Big Butterfly Count, run by the charity Butterfly Conservation, is a UK-wide survey aimed at assessing the health of our environment by counting the amount and type of butterflies we see. Over 111,500 citizen scientists took part in 2020, submitting 145,249 counts of butterflies from across the UK. This year, it’s taking place between Friday 16 and Sunday 8 August. If you’d like to take part, why not download the app?

Perhaps the best way to celebrate National Meadows Day, however, is to spend some time in one. There are a number to choose from across Avon, and there’s bound to be one near you. Bristol’s Hawkfield Meadow would make a good choice. This lovely patch of remnant countryside is one of our My Wild City sites. Home to rare bees and many butterflies, and tucked away in the city’s southern suburb, it’s a real oasis of peace, prized by its community. Stockwood Open Space is another sanctuary in the city boasting some beautiful wildflower meadows. If you’d like some more ideas about where you can find a meadow to explore, do check out our website. Time to get out the bunting, crack open the champagne, and let’s hear it for meadows.