Hampshire’s Marvellous Meadows

© Lianne de Mello

Before the Second World War, meadows dripping with wildflowers and humming with insects would have been a familiar sight across the UK. However, in Hampshire flower-rich grasslands have declined by a staggering 98% in the last century.

Meadows are home to a huge range of grasses and flowers, which provide nectar and other food for beautiful bees, butterflies and hundreds of other insects. In turn, these attract rare greater horseshoe bats and farmland birds including skylarks and yellowhammers.

Unfortunately agricultural use – including ploughing, drainage and fertilisers – have hit meadows hard. Growing towns and cities have also been instrumental in the loss of these habitats. As a result most have disappeared from our countryside, and the wildlife they support is in trouble too.

Meadows are a key part of our natural heritage. They have inspired people for centuries and are essential to our rural economy and well-being. They also help protect our rivers from pollution, hold together healthy soils that store carbon, and enable landscapes to retain water and reduce flooding.

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have been working with local landowners to advise them on how to manage the grassland meadows on their patch – whether to protect the wider habitat, or to support a particular species. By working together to restore and expand these meadows, we can develop a network of natural spaces to help wildlife thrive.

Meadows are at their finest in June and July. Wildflowers are blooming, butterflies are on the wing, grasshoppers are singing and birds are raising their young. So why not visit a one near you?

Hampshire’s speciality is ‘water meadows’ which were traditionally irrigated with river water to maintain good grass for sheep and cattle. They are now among Hampshire’s richest places for wildlife. Good examples are the Wildlife Trust’s Winnall Moors Nature Reserve and along the Itchen Navigation between Winchester and Eastleigh. These meadows can contain dozens of plant species in just one square metre.

Meanwhile, Hoe Road Memorial Meadow in Bishops Waltham is the Coronation Meadow for Hampshire, meaning it’s a flagship nature haven for the county. Seeds from donor plants there are used to restore other grasslands across Hampshire. Hoe Road was donated to the Wildlife Trust by supporter Nancy Mason over 20 years ago.

 

For the past two years, the Wildlife Trust has been working hard to create a wildflower meadow at Barton Meadows in Winchester. This former arable land was secured as a nature reserve during the planning process for the Kings Barton housing development. The area is currently a swathe of beautiful, bright white oxeye daisies.

 

Find a wildflower meadow near you at: www.hiwwt.org.uk/nature-reserves