We have recently been excited to work with Will and Abi who are passionate about the environment and the environmental benefits of wildflowers on bio-diversity. We asked some questions of Will Bowman, one half of the partnership and we hope his answers below, help you to create the kind of environments which nurture and encourage bio-diversity in your own plots.
Will explains a little about the work they have carried out at the TCR Hub
“We chose the location of the old skateboard bowl as it will allow people to walk around the whole area of the patch, and as we identified it as having some nice meadow plants growing in already this year. Because it’s a patch of grass which has been backfilled with rubble/soil it’ll be interesting to see wether the process works come spring on previously disturbed soil.
We began by cutting the grass with a mower on a low setting, following that we scarified the grass with a metal rake in order to create patches of bare earth where the introduced seeds can establish. Finally we hand broadcast seed across the area and stomped then into the ground to ensure they won’t blow away and to make contact with the earth.
The species we introduced by seed were mainly Yellow rattle with smaller amount of red clover, ribwort plantain, lesser trefoil and meadow buttercup.”
How did you come to get involved in wildflower planting?
I came to be interested in wildflowers and the planting thereof mostly during the ‘lockdown era’. My daily walk was through the Barnard Castle desmesnes meadow, which is a really beautiful example of a wildflower meadow which had been restored via the green hay restoration method of introducing hay from a species rich donor field to a receptor.
I was able to walk through these meadows day to day and watch the great diversity of plant life arise, flower and then set seed. Since then I began getting involved with the Tees-Swale: Naturally connected project as a volunteer, helping with botanical surveying of meadows in Upper Teesdale which had been restored as part of their project.
I learnt a lot about the process as a volunteer there and since then have been incredibly lucky to be employed as a trainee on their project. Most of my practical knowledge of wildflower planting and meadow restoration has come from the highly knowledgeable staff on that project, some of whom have been organizing meadow restoration works throughout Teesdale and wider North Pennines AONB area for 10+ years. Without the desmesnes meadow I wouldn’t have even been aware of how species rich and special a habitat upland hay meadows could be.
Given recent statistics about 98% of species rich grassland in the UK being lost to agricultural improvement of grassland and other development, I believe it fundamentally important that people need to be able to experience some of these special diverse habitats to even begin to be aware of what might be lost in the future years and to be informed to protect them.
The best time of year for the process described?
The best time of year for this process would be Autumn. Some of the seeds which are sown might need a period of stratification to break the seeds dormancy and this is usually best achieved through the cold temperature of winter. It also replicates the natural management system of a hay meadow where the grass and flowers have had time to mostly set seed by september, are cut and left to dry in the field allowing seeds to fall and repopulate the seed bank for the next springs germination.
How people with limited gardens or no garden can get involved
People with limited gardens might get involved by learning about what native plants grow in there local area, possibly planting out some of these plants in the garden by growing them from seed they’ve collected themselves or checking to see if a local nursery stocks locally native plant species. Plan your gardens around having something flowering throughout the growing season so that pollinators have access to food. To those with no gardens, I’d say taking a little bit of time to learn about native habitats and plant communities, recognising native plants from garden cultivars and possibly seeing if there are any opportunities to volunteer with local organisations which deliver nature recovery work in their local landscapes. From my experience the North Pennines AONB has lots of volunteering activities centred on habitat creation. The TCR Hub has a marvellous wildlife and garden area which is constantly being managed to create more valuable habitats and food sources for wildlife. Mostly though just seeking out and spending time in native habitats or wildlife areas can do alot to help people be more aware about how special these places are and what can be done to help them.
The benefits of wildflowers
There’s various benefits of wildflowers. Mainly they are a source of food (nectar,pollen,seeds) for insects and birds. Having a diverse range of plants which have different flowering times throughout the year can be important to ensure that wildlife always find something to forage on. The UK’s wildlife is already under immense pressure so creating space for animals and plants to find shelter and food is more important than ever. Also wildflowers are good for people. I can guarantee people feel better for being in an environment surrounded by a diversity of species and wildlife than otherwise. Spending time in nature, amongst wildflowers and wildlife is good for people. It helps reduce stress and anxiety. Reminds people that life on Earth can be more than just the stresses of our everyday life. That we share the land with a whole plethora of other species, whether that be animal life or plant life. It’s good for wildlife, it’s good for us as humans to be surrounded by beautiful things and wildflowers tend to be beautiful.
In a world where more and more concrete is being laid and habitats destroyed it’s more important than ever for us to create more natural spaces for us and nature to exist alongside each other. It doesn’t matter how small we start.
Will has kindly provided the following links for further reading.