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Reinstating native wildflowers

Almost 1600 native wildflowers have been planted across the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland this year thanks to the efforts of two experts and a team of volunteers, to provide crucial pollen and nectar for bees and other beneficial insects next year.

Almost 1000 of these baby ‘plug’ plants have been carefully grown and hand-planted into meadows and small pollinator patches in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) by expert Sarah Robinson.

With help from a team of enthusiastic volunteers, Sarah has planted a colourful variety of native wildflower species that would once have been common in the local area, including ox eye daisy, melancholy thistle, meadow vetchling, tufted vetch, bush vetch, rough hawkbit, knapweed and meadow cranesbill.

Much of this planting is part of the Coronation Meadows project, in which meadows are being restored as a tribute to The Queen on the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty’s Coronation with funding coming from Biffa Award. Other sites have had plug plants added as part of the new ‘Wildflowers for the Meadows’ project, in which community groups across the Forest of Bowland AONB have ‘adopted’ meadow sites and are working with Sarah to increase the number of late-flowering meadow species they contain, to help extend the foraging season for insects.

Carol Edmundson, one of the volunteers and an MSc student studying bumblebees in the area, explained: “Not only is this work important in restoring the beautiful flower rich meadows in the area, it is also helping to provide nesting and feeding sites for bumble bees and other insects, without whom many of our garden crops would not be pollinated. It has been really interesting and good fun to be involved in – despite the rain!”

Over the border, wildflower expert Tanya St. Pierre from Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT), has worked with landowners and community groups to plant around 600 plug plants in public spaces and meadows, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the Upper Eden Valley and Wharfedale.

Tanya said: “Working with plug plants enables us to target certain species that are often harder to grow, and which demand specific soil types and fertility levels. In the SSSIs I’ve focussed on re-introducing species that have disappeared from the meadows including melancholy thistle, wood crane’s-bill and great burnet. We’ve paid special attention to rarer species like globeflower, dropwort and goat’s-beard, which we’ve carefully planted in calcareous locations and sites where, once upon a time, these now-threatened species would have been found. It’s a pleasure to be able to help to enhance these important wildlife habitats, and great to see so many community groups getting involved.”

In the Yorkshire Dales this work is part of ‘Meadow Links’; an 18 month project run by YDMT in partnership with Buglife, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and Natural England, and is kindly supported by the John Spedan Lewis Trust, the D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, the Banister Charitable Trust and the Swaledale Outdoor Club.

‘Wildflowers for the Meadows’ is run by the Forest of Bowland AONB and funded by the Lancashire Environmental Fund to help local people to restore and manage the species rich grasslands which form part of their communities and provide vital habitat for pollinating insects.

Both projects form part of ongoing celebrations to mark 10 years of meadow restoration and education. So far the partnership between YDMT and the Forest of Bowland AONB has helped to restore more than 650 hectares of hay meadows across the region.

If you’re a landowner, farmer, or community group interested in creating a wildflower hay meadow or wildlife patch, please get in touch. For enquiries relating to the Forest of Bowland contact Sarah Robinson on Sarah.Robinson@lancashire.gov.uk or call 01200 448000, and for Yorkshire Dales enquiries contact Tanya St. Pierre on 015242 51002 or email tanya.stpierre@ydmt.org for more information.

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