As Britain marks National Meadows Day on 4th July, the conservation charity has revealed that bumblebees and butterflies are taking advantage of the nectar rich wildflowers which have transformed the meadow at Seymour in Woolacombe.
Wildflower seeds sown just before lockdown at Croyde are also helping local wildlife, providing a location for the Brown Banded Carder Bee which was last seen on Baggy Point in 2000.
National Meadows Day shines a spotlight on loss of 7.5 million acres of meadows and flower-rich grasslands since the 1930s. As part of the the day, the National Trust have been working across the south of England to restore the land to its natural grassland state.
In Devon, the Trust has been working at Seymour, near Woolacombe in North Devon, which has been undergoing transformation for wildlife. The area was previously in an arable rotation with it being recently cropped for spring barley. With the Trust supplying the seed, the tenant farmer adjusted his land management of this area and the meadow was planted with a mixture of annuals which will self-seed for a few years and perennials which will improve with continued management.
Grazing and hay cutting patterns have been changed to improve diversity across the while site. Cutting the site for hay turning it for a few days releases the seed. In the future it will be managed as a hay meadow and not ploughed to improve soil structure. Huge numbers of pollinators including bumblebees and butterflies, have been taking advantage of the nectar rich wildflower mix with dragonflies, mostly southern hawkers hunting for insects above the grassland.
Middleborough Hill in Croyde, adjacent to Baggy Point carpark in North Devon is also undergoing a major transformation, improving the area both for people and wildlife. The field was previously used for sheep grazing and as an overflow carpark but is now being turned into a wildflower meadow and orchard. Prior to lockdown, rangers and local contractors managed to sow wildflower seeds and plant the first fruit trees in the orchard on Middleborough Hill. The seed mix contains lots of pollinator friendly plants such as Clover and Vetch, but also poppies and cornflowers, which will be really eye catching when combined with the rugged backdrop of the North Devon coastline. As it stands, it is hoped that they will be established and ready waiting for people to enjoy once lockdown is over and hopefully, the wildlife will be reaping the benefits even sooner!
This site at Baggy Point is a great site for many species including our native pollinators and the meadow will hopefully improve that. Every year the point is surveyed for its wildlife with special focus given to bumble numbers. Of note is the Brown Banded Carder Bee, last seen on Baggy Point in 2000 but with a strong population in the nearby Braunton Burrows. This nationally important species was once found wildly across Devon but is now confined to just a few small sites along the North Devon coast. This bee tends to fly later in the summer so there is often little forage for it to feed as modern farming pressures tend to require fields to be cut much earlier in the year.
The survey work is done in conjunction with bumble conservation as part of their Westcountry Buzz project, the project focuses on improving bumble habitat across North Devon. The Bumblee Conservation Trust have also contributed towards sowing the wildflower seed.
Paul South, National Trust Ranger in North Devon, said: “It’s not easy to access a lot of the wildlife in this area, but this project is giving us the opportunity to bring wildlife to those people who wouldn’t normally tackle the wilds of the South West Coast path. Now we can once again travel around a bit more and enjoy the outdoors, it’s a good location to sit, enjoy time with friends and family as well as being closer to nature.”
This Meadow Day, the Trust is encouraging people to get involved by making their own mini meadow or identifying wildflowers in their local area. Gardening tips and a flower spotting guide can be found on the website. Donations to the National Trust’s nature and wildlife projects can be made at: nationaltrust.org.uk/donations