Green hay cut in Totnes is helping create wildflower meadows across the Avon Valley

Green hay has been cut and collected from flower-rich grassland at Longmarsh, Totnes, and taken to the Avon Valley to help local landowners establish new, and to improve their existing, wildflower meadows.

Bees are one of the species that needs wildflower meadows to survive - stock image

The initiative is a partnership between the owners of Longmarsh, South Hams District Council, local social enterprise ParkLife and South West and Devon Wildlife Trust, whose Avon Valley Project works with landowners to restore wildflower-rich grasslands, and create wildlife rich corridors across the catchment.  

Keith Rennells from ParkLife, explained that: “Green hay can be a relatively cheap way of collecting wildflower seed. The hay is harvested just as wildflowers and grasses are shedding seed, and are still ‘green’. The hay is quickly transferred to another site where it is spread, allowing the seed to drop.”

Once a common and colourful feature in our landscape, Britain has lost 97 per cent of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s. Those that remain are often small and fragmented, so it is vitality important than they are protected, and new meadow areas created.

Once a common and colourful feature in our landscape, Britain has lost 97 per cent of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s

Devon Wildlife Trust adviser, Lynne Kenderdine, said: “Wildflower grassland can contain more than 150 different plants, providing food and shelter for an array of insects; from bees and beetles to grasshoppers and butterflies. These in turn, support many small animals and birds. But the loss of good wildlife habitat means it is more difficult for species to move around the landscape. Connecting old meadows to new habitats is a vital part of the work.

“Since 2011, the project has visited over 180 landholdings, working with over 300 separate landowners and influencing wildlife habitat of over 3,000 hectares – that’s around 20 per cent of the whole Avon Valley!

“We have been delighted to have been able to use the seed. Longmarsh has a great range of wildflowers.  Our harvest included plenty of late summer bloomers such as wild carrot, tufted vetch and common knapweed.  Having these plants in meadows extends the flowering season; vital food sources for our threatened insect communities.” 

Having these plants in meadows extends the flowering season; vital food sources for our threatened insect communities

South Hams District Council’s Executive Member for Environment, Cllr Keith Baldry, said: “Green hay has been collected from Longmarsh over a number of years. Whilst a relatively small quantity was harvested this year, it is hoped that in future years the project will expand.

“Longmarsh itself has more than 125 recorded species of wildflowers and grasses, so the potential is great. And hopefully next year the local community can help with the seed harvesting again – a great volunteering activity in an attractive setting alongside the River Dart!” 

Information about Devon Wildlife Trust’s Avon Valley Project can be found at: www.devonwildlifetrust.org/what-we-do/our-projects/avon-valley 

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