A conservation project in Norfolk is using seed-rich hay taken from roadside verges to restore precious wildflower meadows.
Green hay cut from Roadside Nature Reserves will be spread on farmland sites and Earsham Wetland Centre in South Norfolk to recreate wildlife-rich meadows.
The hay cutting and spreading project is a joint effort by Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT), Norfolk County Council, and Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (Norfolk FWAG) who have worked with farmers to find suitable sites that will benefit from the seed.
Green hay is cut when there is a high proportion of the seeds in the flower heads. It has a wider variety of seeds in it than a seed mix and as it is being kept local, increases the chance of the seeds colonising. The hay includes seeds of the nationally scarce sulphur clover, restharrow and dyer’s greenweed.
Wild flower meadows are one of the most vulnerable habitats in the UK, having declined by more than 95% in Norfolk since 1945. Meadows are valuable for a range of wild flowers, bees, butterflies and small mammals, as well as reptiles such as grass snake and predators such as barn owl.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust Conservation Officer, Helen Baczkowska said: “Traditional hay meadows resplendent with colourful wild flowers, alive with bees and butterflies, were once common across Norfolk. Sadly they are no longer and today many of their associated plants, including cowslips, yellow rattle and meadow saxifrage, have become much rarer. This partnership project is redressing the balance in south Norfolk. It is not a ‘quick fix’ – creating the new meadows has taken several years and collecting seed by hand and hay is labour intensive – but we are creating new sites for threatened meadow species in less vulnerable locations.”
Image Credit: Norfolk Wildlife Trust
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com