Networks for Nectar’ is helping to create a living network of nectar hubs for bees and other vital pollinating insects across the Forest of Bowland Area AONB.
Delivered by Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust (YDMT)in partnership with the Forest of Bowland this 18-month project aims to restore and conserve a network of small patches of species-rich grasslands, such as field corners, road verges, churchyards, school grounds, orchards, village greens and farmland.
Networks for Nectar will create ‘stepping stones’ in the nectar network, allowing pollinating insects to move from one nectar-rich habitat to another, effectively joining up some of the existing larger wildflower areas. It will benefit local populations of insects, birds and small mammals, and will provide many more opportunities for people to enjoy the iconic beauty of native wildflowers.
The project builds on the success of Bowland Hay Time (see below), through which YDMT and the AONB worked with farmers and land owners to restore 55 hectares of wildflower hay meadows in 2012 and 2013.
This summer has been a bit different to the previous two, due to changes in funding streams and the first summer of the Networks for Nectar project, which is focussing on small non-farmed sites compared to the Hay Time scheme, which focuses of field scale restoration work.
This summer there have been four field scale restoration schemes, one funded via HLS, and three funded by Biffa Award, as part of the UK wide Coronation Meadows project. These three schemes have been completed using seed from Bell Sykes farm, Lancashire's Coronation Meadow site, harvested using a brush harvester which we have borrowed from Nidderdale AONB.
The rest of the restoration schemes, thirteen in total, have been under the Networks for Nectar (N4N) project, where we have been supplying seed and providing management advice to private owners and local businesses wanting to produce nectar sites and small meadows for invertebrates.
There have been a whole variety events, including: a bioblitz for Hurst Green St John's Eco-congregation; a meadow walk for the Lancaster Bee Keepers at Bell Sykes; a day long meadow event in Slaidburn as part of Festival Bowland; a picnic with meadow activities at the restored meadow in Gisburn Forest; an open day at the Bell Sykes Coronation Meadows a two day mowing course also held at Bell Sykes with Steve Tomlin the scythe tutor and a local artist capturing the scything in pastels; a field trip to the Rathmell meadows as part of the national AONB Conference; advice to Bolton-by-Bowland parish council on their parish plan; support for our Edge Hill PhD student looking at SSSI meadows in Bowland; support to our Edge Hill MSc student who is looking at spider diversity in restored meadows in Bowland; scything partys at Melling Village Green and Hurst Green St John's churchyard; filming for Lancashire Environmental Fund, one our main funders, as part of their Annual Report and most recently hosting a visit from Biffa Awards to see how their money has been used.
In addition to supporting the two students from Edge Hill in their individual work, we also hosted the MSc course for a day's field trip during which they collected vegetation data for the site. In July we hosted a week's placement for a UCLAN MSc student studying environmental management who is also registered blind. He interviewed local farmers for his project, helped with seed collection and propagation and also attended the scythe training course.
Work has also been ongoing revisiting the restoration schemes completed in 2012 and 2013, as well as visiting potential sites for next year, in partnership with the local HLS team, who now look to the project to provide recommendations on site suitability for restoration. This has already resulted in a list of seven farms with field scale restoration forming part of their HLS agreements.
Currently I am organising a week's field trip for a group of 11 practitioners from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, who are part of the EU funded LIFE Viva Grass project, and will be visiting Bowland, the Dales (with Tanya's help) and Cumbria.
Next on my list is to complete work on the GIS layers and local sites records which has been a little neglected of late.
For further information contact sarah [dot] robinson [at] lancashire [dot] gov [dot] uk
- see some scything and raking by hand!
In 2012, Plantlife published Our Vanishing Flora, a report highlighting the loss of wild flowers from individual counties across Great Britain since the Coronation. In his foreword for the report, Plantlife's Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales called for the creation of new wild flower meadows, at least one in every county, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation. The Coronation Meadows Project, led by Plantlife and in partnership with the Wildlife Trusts and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, is working to achieve this goal.
This exciting project has two distinct aims. The first is to identify one flagship wild flower meadow – a Coronation Meadow - in each county. These meadows will be celebrated as the surviving “jewels in the crown”, places where people can enjoy a riot of colour and an abundance of wildlife in settings that have remained largely unchanged since the Coronation.
The second aim is to use these Coronation Meadows as source or ‘donor’ meadows to provide seed for the creation of new meadows at ‘recipient’ sites in the same county. In this way, new Coronation Meadows will be created, increasing the area of this valuable habitat, providing new homes for bees, butterflies and other pollinators and helping to secure our wild flower heritage for the next 60 years and beyond.
Bell Sykes Meadows includes six unimproved flower-rich fields. Three of these are alongside the neighbouring River Hodder and include grasses such as meadow foxtail and sweet vernal grass along with moisture loving flowers like great burnet and meadowsweet. The upper three fields are home to the characteristic flowers of dry hay meadows in northern England. Meadow crane’s-bill and melancholy thistle grow together with a colourful mix of yellow rattle, eyebrights, pignut, buttercups and lady’s mantle. There are also three new meadows on the farm, which received hay from the species-rich ones in August 2012 as part of the Bowland Hay Time project. They already have yellow rattle and eyebright growing in them since the hay was spread.
Bell Sykes Meadows is one of the last unimproved flower-rich grasslands in this part of Lancashire. This vulnerable habitat has become increasingly scarce and has largely been destroyed in Lancashire through agricultural intensification.
For further information visit http://coronationmeadows.org.uk
Please email sarah [dot] robinson [at] lancashire [dot] gov [dot] uk for details of future events.
The Forest of Bowland AONB has joined forces with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) to fund a Hay Time hay meadow restoration project here in Bowland, the project began on May 21st 2012.
Working together with farmers in the AONB, the project will harvest wildflower seed from species-rich meadows and use this to restore meadows that have lost some of their characteristic plants. The project also aims to increase public awareness, enjoyment and understanding of the hay meadows found in the area, and will improve public access to meadows, as well as surveying many meadows to record the variety and number of plant species they contain.
Sarah Robinson, the new Bowland Hay Time Project Officer, is based at the Forest of Bowland AONB’s office in Dunsop Bridge. Sarah said, "Bowland Hay Time is an important and exciting project and I am delighted to be part of it. I’m looking forward to working closely with hay meadow farmers in the AONB who are interested in getting involved with the project, either through having seed harvested from their meadows or through having their meadows enhanced through seed addition."
Hay meadows are one of our rarest habitats and a priority for conservation and enhancement in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Largely lost from the rest of the country, these meadows survive thanks to traditional farming practices, in particular the late cutting of the crop in July or August. During spring and summer the array of colourful flowers and grasses in hay meadows make not only a wonderful sight but create important places for other species such as bats and birds to feed and nest in. The AONB contains a significant number of the UK’s remaining upland hay meadows and as such it is an important area for this stunning habitat. The project will run over the next two years and aims to restore 40 hectares of meadow.
For further information about the project contact Sarah on 01200 448000 or email sarah [dot] robinson [at] lancashire [dot] gov [dot] uk
The project is being funded by the Forest of Bowland AONB and the Lancashire Environment Fund