Cheshire Wildlife Trust is encouraging people to celebrate the beauty and tranquillity of meadows this summer.
The trust runs its headquarters at Bickley Hall Farm, Malpas, as an organic wildlife-friendly farm with its own meadows, and also has a dedicated heritage meadow at its reserve near Holmes Chapel, called Swettenham Meadows.
At Bickley Hall Farm, the meadows are cut at the end of July each year, to give late flowering meadow plants a chance to grow, flower and set seed. This provides pollinators with food throughout the spring and summer and gives ground nesting birds the best chance possible of rearing their chicks. A tenth of each meadow is also left uncut to provide a refuge for invertebrates. After cutting, the meadows are grazed by cattle, which helps prevent dominant, competitive plant species taking over.
In 2016, the Trust started a project to restore meadow habitats at its Swettenham Meadows nature reserve, with support from the national Coronation Meadows scheme. There is already a marked difference in the diversity of plant species following this work, of which the fourteen resident butterfly species that have been recorded on site, will likely benefit.
Martin Varley, conservation director, at Cheshire Wildlife Trust, is excited about the projects that the Trust has already embarked on to promote and conserve this import environment.
He said: “Changes in farming practices and a lack of awareness around the importance of grasslands has resulted in the loss of 99% of our region’s meadows, in just 60 years. Not surprisingly, many grassland specialist pollinators such as bees, butterflies, hoverflies and moths are also in rapid decline. Insect-feeding small mammals and birds such as the yellow wagtail, lapwing and skylark have all also been impacted by the losses. We are already hard at work to try and turn this around but there is always more to do.”
See full story in the Chester Leader