Wildflower meadows in Plumpton
In the very early days of the Plumpton and East Chiltington Wildlife Group, we conducted a survey of the parish to identify wildlife habitats. The survey revealed some fragments of species-rich wildflower meadows (on the survey maps, these are identified as semi-improved neutral grassland).
In the past these were managed for hay – grazed by animals in the autumn and winter and then left to flower until the hay cut. The timing of this depended on the weather and farming needs and took place between late June and August. But this traditional management has been largely replaced by modern methods. Herbicide and fertiliser application, ploughing and reseeding with vigorous grasses have resulted in monocultures of grass with few wild flowers.
As the wild flowers have disappeared, the bees and butterflies and other insects that depend on them for nectar and pollen have also declined. This not only results in a less interesting and inspiring countryside but, ultimately, could have serious consequences for the farming of crops that depend on pollinating insects.
Wildflower meadows need soil that has not been ploughed up or treated with herbicides or fertilisers. Soil that is too rich allows grasses to grow tall and dense, which smothers the more delicate wild flowers. Management to maintain a good meadow means cutting it in late summer, after the wild flowers have set seed, and raking off the hay. Cutting again in the autumn will keep the grasses low so that flowers receive the light they need in the following spring.
In an effort to reverse the decline of wild flowers and their associated insects in the parish, the Plumpton and East Chiltington Wildlife Group is working with landowners to encourage appropriate management of some of our remnant wildflower rich meadows. These include wildflower meadows at
The plant communities typical of hay meadows also remain in places such as churchyards and roadside verges.
If you have a piece of land that you would like to manage for wild flowers, we would be happy to survey it and advise you. Please contact us.