PRESS RELEASE for immediate release 7 April 2016

The search is on to find England's top community meadow

Bursting with colour, seductive scents, the buzz of insects and alive with animals - a wildflower meadow is a jewel in nature’s crown that puts on a spectacular show in summer. So it’s frightening to think that something so precious and vital is in real danger. Since the 1930’s we have lost 97% (nearly 7.5 million acres) of meadows and grasslands and the wildflowers and wildlife associated with them. Every year more and more meadows are lost through neglect, change of land use or development and with them our native wildflowers such as oxeye daisies, snakes head fritillary and bee orchids, to name but a few.

Blakehill meadows near Minety, Wiltshire are an oasis for wildlife. In 2000, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust bought this historic World War II airfield from the MOD with help from local people and have been restoring it back to neutral meadows. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has similarly been moved to help slow this decline by creating a new chalk grassland nature reserve at Winterbourne Downs near Salisbury. Both have become a haven for the county's wildflowers and wildlife.  Skylarks nest on the meadows each year, pyrimidal orchid add colour and in the summer months butterflies abound. But many meadows in the UK have not been so lucky and are sadly disappearing.

To reverse this loss, the search is on to find England's most successful “Meadow Makers”.  As part of the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project, Plantlife and partners want to celebrate the work of the unsung heroes in our communities and schools who are setting a fantastic example of how to protect our meadow heritage and who are inspiring others to follow suit. Groups such as those at Seven Fields in Swindon who have for over 25 years been active in the protection of the fields adjacent to their homes and are setting a fantastic example having adopted a local meadow. In addition, new groups such as those at Dance Common, Cricklade have recently begun work to monitor the health of a meadow in their local parish and bring it back to life... The partnership wants to share their stories.

Save Our Magnificent Meadows, the UK’s largest partnership project was launched in 2014 and aims to transform the fortunes of vanishing wildflower meadows, grasslands and wildlife, led by Plantlife, the partnership of 11 organisations is working to restore 6,000 hectares of wildflower meadows and grasslands, primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“Communities and individuals throughout Wiltshire and Swindon, on both private and public land have a long history of community involvement in Meadow Making. This is an opportunity for all of those involved in creation, restoration and protection of iconic habitat to tell their story and we very much encourage them to take part in this and other events such as National Meadows day on July 2nd”, says Neil Pullen, Nature Reserves Manager at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

Patrick Cashman, RSPB Wiltshire Sites Manager said “We hope that the stories that come to light of people working together to bring the colour and life back into meadows locally through these Awards, will inspire others to join us as Meadow Makers in giving nature a home”.

Marian Spain, CEO of Plantlife, says: “Meadows were once a common feature of our countryside throughout the UK. We want to showcase the work of those in our communities and schools, who are showing commitment to the conservation of our last surviving pockets of meadows and are helping to conserve the remaining ones, whether it be on a small parish meadow, road verge, school field, or even a village green, they will be playing a vital role in reversing a lifetime of loss”

Meadow makers will demonstrate:

  • Evidence of hard work and commitment to meadow and grassland conservation
  • Type of management involved - who helps?
  • The inspiration behind their grassland being managed in a certain way
  • Ways the area has benefited other people

Entries for ‘Meadow Makers’ are welcome from now to 31 July with the winners for each nation (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) announced in September 2016. For more information and details on how to enter, visit www.magnificentmeadows.org.uk.