Wildlife Trust in bid to preserve Yorkshire wildflower meadows

A wildflower meadow.
A wildflower meadow.
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Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - which runs Doncaster’s Potteric Carr nature reserve - is bidding to preserve the county’s wildflowers.

Simply bursting with colour, buzzing with insects and alive with birds and small mammals, a wildflower meadow is one of the UK’s iconic summer scenes.

Although, that is by no means where their value stops as wildflowers are actually of huge economic value supporting pollination and a huge diversity of species.

This in turn provides us with food and medicine both directly and indirectly. Yet despite this, wildflower meadows are now in serious decline in the UK, which is why Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is working hard to maintain and improve those that remain for future generations to enjoy.

Wildflower meadows were once a common sight across the UK. Since the 1930s however, they have declined by a hugely detrimental 97% as a result of a rapidly expanding population and intensifying agriculture.

This is a huge problem for the creatures that usually depend on them, such as bumblebees, which in themselves are of huge economic value, pollinating our food crops.

Loss of habitat has been so widespread, that some species have in fact started to go extinct, such as the short-haired bumblebee. To compound the problem, existing meadows now tend to be very small and few and far between, making it difficult for their benefits to truly be felt by the creatures that depend on them.

To address this problem the Wildlife Trusts’ has come up with a concept known as Living Landscapes. The idea being that conservation work concentrates on creating bigger and better areas for wildlife that are connected to one another.

Then if one habitat is disturbed there is a clear passageway for wildlife to move along, helping to avoid local extinctions and population declines. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has therefore been working hard to create these bigger, better and connected wildlife-rich areas through the careful management of its 95 nature reserves across the county. This would not be possible without the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Up-to-date Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has received almost £600,000 from players and this money enables the Trust to manage these sites and help protect these hugely important habitats.

So how can you help? Although one might think late summer isn’t the time to help wildflowers that isn’t the case; Jim Horsfall, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Reserve Officer explains: “Wildlife meadows need managing, and cutting a meadow can actually help wildlife. Many of our native wildflowers rely on nutrient poor soil and if a meadow isn’t cut then come late autumn the grass dies and starts to rot down, which in turn enriches the soil. When this happens, nutrient loving plants like nettles and hogweed spread quickly and suppress our more delicate wildflowers, such as orchids or harebells. So the annual hay rake is a crucial date in the nature conservation diary and helps conserve the wildflowers which are at their best during June and July.”

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust runs many practical task days that anyone can get involved with in order to help important habitats such as wildflower meadows. If you want to get involved with volunteering or to find out about any practical task days email Yorkshire Wildlife Trust on volunteering@ywt.org.uk.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust also has a number of beautiful sights with magical blooming wildflower meadows that are completely free to visit. Brockadale Nature Reserve near Pontefract is a wildflower haven and summer is a beautiful time to go to witness the plethora of clustered bellflowers. Meanwhile Pearson Park Wildlife Garden in Hull has become a retreat away from the busy city and its flowering meadow is truly beautiful, whilst even out on the coast at Flamborough Cliffs the wildflowers carpet the cliff tops creating a magnificent spectacle.

Late summer is also the perfect time to start planning your wildlife-friendly garden for next year and make it into a wildlife paradise! Local wildlife-friendly seed distributor Nectar and Pollen have set up a unique affinity scheme with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust whereby they donate 10% of their profits from every plant sold to the Trust. This means you can grow a beautiful wildflower meadow in your garden whilst helping Yorkshire’s wildlife. For more information see www.nectarandpollen.co.uk.

To find out more about gardening for wildlife, volunteering or events with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust check out their website www.ywt.org.uk