Summer 2019 – Wild flower meadows

Summer 2019 – Wild flower meadows

Grassland enhancements are one of the 5 key themes of green space enhancement that the ERDF SUNRISE project is working towards.

Project staff have been busy updating and fine tuning the originally submitted project proposals to turn them into workable plans, and working with other partners to get ready for the summer months when this work needs to be undertaken.┬áTo finalise those plans we are seeking the input of local communities and residents – we have already run a series of public consultation sessions to speak to local people about the proposed areas for enhancements and are now giving this final call for people to get in touch with feedback.

The work will be undertaken using a technique called green hay strewing, a proven method for transferring seeds of the plant species that are key to the whole process. The first phase of the work will be to prepare the ground by cutting the existing grass (where it has been left to grow long) and removing the cut material from the site. The area will then be harrowed (or scarified) to open up the turf in preparation for the seed. A hay crop from an existing wild flower meadow will then be cut and transported to site before being spread out onto the prepared area. As this hay dries out the seeds will fall into the prepared ground and begin to grow the following year. The Wildlife Trust have already arranged to take hay from Mottey Meadows, a National Nature Reserve managed by Natural England, and one of the best wild flower meadows in the West Midlands for this project.

The management of these areas will have to change to protect and encourage the meadow to develop. Rather than keeping the grass in these areas trimmed short, it will be allowed to grow so the flowers can bloom and set seed. This seed will be crucial to the ongoing survival of the meadow areas as so many of the species are annuals, that is they need to grow from seed each year. Once the seed has set the meadows will then be cut (in the late summer or early autumn) and once again the material will be removed. This is done to prevent the ground recycling nutrients and becoming too rich – wildflowers actually do better in lower nutrient conditions.

One of the project sites, Thistleberry Parkway in Newcastle-under-Lyme, had meadow areas sown last year and is already showing a wider range of species than before with a key meadow species, Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor), being particularly obvious. Four other sites are proposed to receive these enhancements this summer (see pictures for maps) including an area part of Bunny Hill, Clayton, Newcastle-under-Lyme; areas within Lyme Valley Parkway, Newcastle-under-Lyme; an area in Milton, Stoke-on-Trent and along the Causely Brook, Stoke-on-Trent. Some of the areas in Lyme Valley Park and already more natural and diverse, these areas will have additional seed added to enhance what is already there rather than having the full green hay treatment.

If you would like to provide your feedback on the proposals or to find out more about the wild flower meadow creation work, or any other part of the SUNRISE Project please contact the Project Manager, Richard Guy through the contact page on this website or at r.guy@staffs-wildlife.org.uk.