Since 1930 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost in England and Wales. So in 2013 Prince Charles, who is very keen to do something about restoring meadows, set up the Coronation Meadows Project, with the aim of creating at least one new wildflower meadow in each county and possibly helping to improve others.
One good meadow in each county was designated as a Coronation Meadow (in Warwickshire this was Draycote Meadows, which is a Warwickshire Wildlife Trust reserve near Rugby) – the idea being to gather the freshly cut hay, known as ‘green hay’, from here and transport it to other meadows so as to spread the seeds. To obtain the best results, the ‘green hay’ should ideally be cut just when the flower seeds are about to drop and the resulting hay transported to the new site and spread out all in one day so that the seeds stay viable.
For best results, Natural England also recommends it should not be moved more than 3 miles, so seed from Draycote would not be suitable for use at Charlecote.
However, the Wildlife Trust has a number of other good meadows, which it is quite prepared to use if it can help improve, or create new, flower-rich grasslands. One such is Loxley Church Meadow which is less than 3 miles from Charlecote. So it was suggested we might like to contact the Wildlife Trust to see if any ‘green hay’ could be brought from here to spread on Place’s Meadow and the new ground. Combined with the ‘plugs’ that have been planted, this will hopefully improve the diversity of flower species in Place’s Meadow, which is excellent as a buttercup meadow, but lacks the range of species needed to attract a good range of the pollinating insects that have also drastically declined in recent years.
An agreement was made with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust whereby Charlecote could have the ‘green hay’ from Loxley, with the farmer who grazes Loxley having ordinary hay from Charlecote Park in exchange. The area of Place’s Meadow that was to receive the hay was harrowed several times beforehand to create very small bare patches in the grass for the seeds to fall into.
On Thursday July 23rd a message was received that the farmer was cutting Loxley meadow that morning and the baled hay would be brought to Charlecote that afternoon.
Some of these were taken for use on the New Grounds, but around 30 were dropped on Place’s Meadow, where they had to be cut open, unrolled and the hay spread out before the bales heated up and killed the seeds.
There were only about half a dozen of us (volunteers and staff) available to carry out this massive task! Working much later than usual, we managed to unroll all the bales, but we only managed to fully spread about three of them.
Fortunately a special machine was obtained the next day, which chopped up and spread the hay around, although some of it fell on the mown path leaving one of the volunteers to move it by hand! Let’s hope all this hard work results in a more varied display of wildflowers next year!
Graham, Park Volunteer