We're restoring Wiltshire’s magnificent meadows

As a partner in the Save Our Magnificent Meadows Project, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust has been working to enhance the habitat and visitor experience at their Blakehill and Clouts nature reserve's.

wild flowers at Blakehill © David Hall-WWT

At Blakehill, an area outside the Whitworth building has been converted into an education area linking directly onto one of the meadows. School groups attend to learn how we farm the land for wildlife. The children (and adults)  wander through the meadows searching for bugs and beasties. A "playground game" has been drawn and constructed to introduce children to conservation and the species that live on the nature reserve.

Blakehill has an interesting recent history as it was an airfield in WWII.  The history and transformation of the site is depicted in large displays. Volunteers with the Save Our Magnificent Meadows highlighted this in last year’s National Meadows Day event, where this heritage was celebrated with a guided walk and a display of some historical relicts from the era. This event was a great success, and introduced a new audience to the site and raised awareness of the heritage and history of  the meadows.  

Magnificent Meadows Family Event 22 Aug 2014 Toos Van Noordwijk

As an airfield Blakehill is a very open flat site known by some as Bleakhill.  There are very few hedgerows cross creating a rather unique, large flat open landscape. As part of the save Our Magnificent Meadows Project Wiltshire Wildlife  have created a series of "lumps and bumps’ across the site. These bunds change the topography, and create micro habitats for meadow species such as invertebrates and reptiles. These have been seeded with flowers to encourage pollinators and butterflies. Mining bees, reptiles, amphibians use these areas.  

Pyramidal orchids at Blakehill © Kate Brewin WWT

In such a flat and open landscape, permanent stock fencing would be inappropriate; However,  some way to control stock grazing across the site was needed. Electric fencing can be flimsy;  so a series of permanent posts into which the electric wires can be attached have been erected. The posts are topped with bird spikes to prevent corvids and raptors (predators) from perching and watching ground nesting species stealing the eggs and young. The fence allows  grazing of different areas, in different ways. From intensive grazing to areas left ungrazed each year.  This is also time saving for farm staff. At Clouts wood Diocese meadows more traditional stock fences have been erected across the ground to allow the meadows on this chalk downland site to be managed for the first time in many years.

Short-eared owl 002 © Amy Lewis

Green hay has also been used. Spread  on one of the outlying fields at Blakehill,  adjacent to a SSSI. These outlying meadows  will help to buffer and enlarge the plateau meadow and SSSI area.

Monitoring programmes and baseline information is been under taken, often by volunteers. These volunteers have attended training sessions and are now undertaking surveys that help us monitor the effectiveness of our interventions and management. In turn they are passing on their skill to new volunteers.

Workshops have been held when local landowners, community groups and individuals have attended and learnt practical skills such as scything, honed their Identification skills and learnt more about the management and ecology of meadows. Having been inspired and with new confidence these workshops have seen areas of meadow locally in Wiltshire restored and created on small and large scale.  

Led by Plantlife, the Magnificent Meadows partnership is made up of 11 organisations and is primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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See more about Blakehill Farm nature reserve

Find out more about the national project.