National Meadow Day: Poundbury Wildflower Meadows

It’s National Meadows Day today and People Need Nature is celebrating with news of a project on which we working, in partnership with the Duchy of Cornwall, at their Poundbury development in Dorset.

Poundbury Great Field is a large open space on the boundary where the new development at Poundbury meets the existing edge of Dorchester town. The area had previously been arable fields (on clay and chalk) and, as the development has progressed, alongside more formal areas with playing fields, informal parts of the Great Field have been sown with wildflower meadow mixes.

One area which is developing very well was sown around five years ago. It is now a sea of Common knapweed, with plentiful Ladies’ and Hedge bedstraw, Quaking grass, Bird’s-foot trefoil and other meadow wildflowers.

This Great Field wildflower meadow is around five years old ©Miles King.

This area of meadow is managed by mowing (and removing the arisings) in August. Because of the urban nature of the Great Field, it’s not possible to graze these meadows as would be done if they were on a farm. Instead, they will have another mow around the end of March, to take off any growth that happens over the winter. This mimics the action of animals grazing on a meadow over the winter.

A second area of wildflower meadow was created around three years ago, using a different seed mix. This meadow here is a bit coarser with much more ox-eye daisy. It has not been mown as often as the older area, but will be mown in a few weeks time – again with the arisings being removed. This area should develop into another very attractive wildflower meadow with continued management.

Poundbury Great Field wildflower meadow sown about three years ago ©Miles King

This winter People Need Nature has worked with local wildflower seed supplier Heritage Seeds and the Duchy of Cornwall, to sow another new area of wildflower meadow on the Great Field. Exceptionally wet conditions followed by exceptionally dry ones, has meant this new meadow has got off to a bit of a slow start, but it will be flourishing in the next year or two. Wildflower seed collected from existing meadows in Purbeck ,was used to sow this new wildflower meadow, helping to protect local populations of native wildflowers.

The plan for this new area of wildflower meadow is that it is allowed to grow up to meadow height and is then cut in July to a height where it becomes a usable area of greenspace for the local community – we’ve called this “amenity meadow”.

We are working on a series of projects with the Duchy of Cornwall at Poundbury, about which we will update you as they progress.

We think more parks and other open spaces across the country could be managed as wildflower meadow, in addition to the short-mown park grass we’re all familiar with. There are plenty of parks where wildflower meadows could be allowed to develop to meadow height and be left, to be cut later in the summer. But in other places we think this amenity meadow approach provides an alternative, creating an earlier wildflower meadow, before providing shorter grass for the school holidays, when there’s more public use. Sowing low-growing flowers like Red clover and Bird’s-foot trefoil into such a mix means they can continue to flower, providing nectar and pollen to insects, even after the meadow has been cut.

Wildflower Meadows have almost completely disappeared from the countryside, as people no longer need to grow hay to feed horses, and silage has replaced hay, to feed cattle and sheep in the winter. But wildflower meadows make fantastic habitats for urban parks and open spaces, bringing much more wildlife into people’s every day lives.

Why not approach your council and ask them to bring some wildflower meadow into their local parks and other open spaces.

PS Here is a little film about the Poundbury Meadows.

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