Exmoor pushes for more wildflower meadow creation after huge national decline

A new CareMoor for Exmoor appeal has been made to help raise funds for the creation of grasslands in the national park. This follows a 97% decline in wildflower meadows across the country since World War II.

Grasslands provide important food and habitation for a wide range of species, including many pollinating insects, small mammals, bats and birds, and are a rich store of carbon. They help improve connectivity between habitats and can be a valuable source of fodder for livestock, supporting traditional skills such as haymaking.

Donations to the appeal will support the new Exmoor Sowing the Seeds project – a collaboration between Exmoor National Park Authority (NPA), FWAG South West and Devon Wildlife Trust, with support from South West Water and Natural England, to collect and distribute locally wildflower seeds.

Heather Harley, Conservation Officer for Agriculture and Land Management at Exmoor NPA, said: “This call is to recognize that wildflower meadows are an absolute powerhouse of our countryside. We know from recent surveys that many farmers really appreciate this, and the response so far has been brilliant. But farms are only part of the picture; we need more wildflowers growing on roadsides, village greens, cemeteries and schoolyards. Our work will help connect those who grow wildflower seeds and those who have land, with donations from the public needed to fund vital equipment, habitat surveys and training. We simply cannot do this without this wider wave of support.

The pilot phase of the project saw 30kg of seed collected and distributed to five different landholdings on Exmoor. This has so far resulted in the restoration of over 11 acres of grassland as part of a wider aspiration to create a network of ‘natural corridors and highways’ through the national park, including 1,500 hectares additional wildflower meadows.

Just under three percent of Exmoor is currently considered species-rich grassland, which attracts a multitude of wildlife and often supports flora and fauna that cannot thrive in other habitats. Typically characterized by species such as knapweed, white daisy, yellow rattle, hawkbits, vetch and rarer orchids, they can also support colorful waxcap mushrooms with names such as parrot, snowy and crimson. As well as being beautiful to look at, flower-rich grasslands are ecologically important as they provide areas for pollinating insects, nesting, foraging, shelter, and even courtship displays with animals.

Rob Wilson-North, Conservation and Access Manager at Exmoor NPA, added: “Our wildflower meadows were once a crucial part of the agricultural calendar and part of our agricultural heritage. Restoring them will help boost vital populations of pollinating insects, and we can all benefit from the incredible summer colors and sense of well-being that people get from being so close to these enriching displays of nature.

“Where we still have ancient grassland habitats, they are often fragmented, so we also need to think of the big picture and facilitate the movement of wildlife across the landscape to build resilience and facilitate adaptation to the climate change.

“In times of hardship for everyone, we are especially grateful for any donations people can make to bring the wildflower meadows back to our beautiful landscape.”

Donations to the appeal can be made at the National Park Centers in Lynmouth, Dunster or Dulverton or online at www.exmoor-national-park.gov.uk/caremoor.

Anyone interested in creating grasslands, at any scale, as well as people with flower-rich grasslands who might be interested in becoming a donor site, are welcome to contact the Exmoor Sowing the Seeds project at [email protected] exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or register for free to join the Exmoor Meadow-Makers Forum at https://forum.moremeadows.org.uk.

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Chris B. Hall