Did you know that a single, healthy meadow can be home to over 80 species of wildflowers and a wealth of other wildlife? Sadly, it’s staggering to learn that 97% of our wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s.That’s the reason for National Meadows Day, this year held on 1 July. It’s the headline event of Save Our Magnificent Meadows, the UK’s largest partnership project which aims to transform the fortunes of our vanishing grasslands and their associated wildlife. Led by Plantlife, the partnership is made up of 11 organisations, including the RSPB, and is primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.Just 100 years ago, there would have been a meadow in every Staffordshire parish, supporting a way of life that had gone on for centuries. They provided grazing and hay for livestock, employment, and food and medicine. Meadows are an essential element of our nation’s rich cultural and social history.
As hay meadows form a hugely significant aspect of the precious habitats for the wildlife here at RSPB Coombes Valley, and in the wider vale of the River Churnet, we were especially keen to celebrate with an event befitting the importance of them, with activities ranging from family crafts to guided walks. There was something for everyone to join in and have fun.
In the craft barn, families could try their hand at weaving willow dreamcatchers or bird feeders, making a dragonfly to patrol the meadows, or a seed bomb to take home to start their very wild mini-meadow in their “nature reserve” part of the lawn. People could also chat to the Staffordshire Bat Group and visit our moth and butterfly stand to get up close and personal to some moths. Sweep netting sessions provided a further, and very popular, way of encountering bugs and minibeasts close up in our beautiful meadows.
One of the stars of the show was the artisan, Jez the Scythe, an old friend of the reserve who gave scything demonstrations throughout the day to show traditional methods of hay meadow management.
Through generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of the buffer solution project, the RSPB has recently acquired Bellpit Meadows near Ipstones. Visitors were able to discover more about wildflowers and grassland habitats by joining one of the guided walks which were led by a professional ecologist. A practical demonstration in the craft barn showed how a meadow in good condition buffers surrounding woodlands from contaminants such as chemicals and pesticides and acts to protect the Churnet Valley from extreme drought or flooding.
For those needing a cuppa with delicious homemade cake, or who just wanted to relax with an ice cream and soak up the atmosphere, some fabulous live music in the yurt was provided by The Idioms, a local alternative folk band.
The weather was kind and this year’s Hay Day was hugely successful, not just in the great number of smiling faces, but perhaps more importantly in the message that was spread about protecting and recreating our meadows. Our special thanks go to the heritage Lottery Fund for making the RSPB Coombes Valley 2017 Hay Day possible.