Wildflower meadows are some of the most loved and iconic symbols of the British countryside. However, over the last 75 years, 97% of them have been lost.
That’s bad news for many scarce and declining species of flowers and plants, and also for the insects and animals that live there. Many of these species are only found in wildflower meadows.
By Royal appointment
In an effort to reverse the trend, Prince Charles called for the creation of new wildflower meadows – at least one in every county – to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.
The Coronation Meadows Project was launched in 2012. It was has two main aims:
- To identify one flagship meadow in each county
- To use donor seed from Coronation Meadows to help establish new ones
Coronation Meadows on the National Forest Estate
Two of our meadows have already been recognised as Coronation Meadows. These sites are outstanding (and rare) examples of species-rich lowland grassland. Modern farming techniques were never introduced to them, and they are home to a wealth of wildflowers in the summer months.
Samhairidh, Morvern, Lochaber, Highlands
The name is Gaelic for sorrel-pasture but you won’t only find sorrel there. We’ve identified 83 species of flowering plant, including typical meadow species such as northern marsh orchid (shown here), ox-eye daisy and yellow rattle.
Yair Haugh, Tweed Valley, Selkirkshire in the Scottish Borders
Ragged robin, devil’s-bit scabious and northern hawk’s-beard are just some of the 60-plus species found in this important wet meadow habitat.
Managing the meadows
The problem with any early succesional stage habitat is that if it’s left unmanaged the soil nutrient levels build up. This allows more aggressive invasive plant species to establish and thrive that can make use of the extra available nutrients. This is called succession.
If the nitrogen and phosphorus levels within soil rise above a certain threshold, then the species richness will be lost, as a lush and fertile grassy sward replaces the diverse species sward.
This why we’ve introduced conservation grazing. You might think it’s strange to see cattle happily munching away next to rare wild flowers. But grazing removes a proportion of the vegetation sward, and removes nutrients so that they aren’t recycled back into the soil.
We use Highland cattle at Samhairidh and Aberdeen Angus at Yair Haugh, and have plans to expand conservation grazing to other areas.
Improving grassland habitats on the National Forest Estate
The Coronation Meadows are just two examples of where we’re managing rare lowland grassland habitat for conservation.
We are also looking after important areas of wet meadow habitat (purple-moor grass and rush pasture) at Balvag in the Trossachs and at the Kyle of Sutherland Site of Special Scientific Interest.