Putting Aberdeenshire meadows back on the map

Kirsty Nutt

Thursday 23 June 2016

This year's National Meadows Day is promising to be the biggest yet, with up to 100 events taking place across England, Scotland, N. Ireland and Wales in celebration of ancient wildflower meadows and their wildlife. From planting wildflowers and a bumblebee safari, to poetry recitals, people in Aberdeenshire will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the wonder of a flower-rich meadow on their doorstep.

Project Manager Claire Parton from Plantlife says "National Meadows Day, brilliantly supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), is about putting local meadows on the map. We are familiar with our local woodland but for many, meadows are more mysterious - in their full glory for only a few months of the year and more familiar from television or magazines. They are spectacular landscapes to be in and we hope the RSPB Scotland event in Aberdeenshire will act as a catalyst to raise awareness of this increasingly rare and fragile part of our natural heritage."

The Meadows Celebration at Loch of Strathbeg will take place from 12-5 pm on Saturday 2 July and is being heralded as the reserve's biggest event of the year.

Roddy Hamilton is RSPB Scotland's Meadows Outreach Officer. He said: "The Meadows Celebration promises to be a day of fun and discovery with plenty of activities for all ages. Folk can get hands on with arts and crafts, pond-dipping and planting wildflowers or join the guided walk or bumblebee safari."

"There will also be open mic sessions for people to share their love of meadows alongside organised performances and poetry recitals including some of the winners of our Doric Meadows Poetry Competition. We can't wait!"

The Buchan Ranger Service, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, NE Scotland Biodiversity Partnership and local RSPB Wildlife Explorers group will also have stalls and activities. On the day, the visitor centre car parking is reserved for visitors with restricted mobility, but there will be in-field parking for some cars and hourly shuttle buses from Crimond. For more information about the event visit rspb.org.uk/lochofstrathbeg or facebook.com/RSPBNorthEastScotland, email magnificentmeadows@rspb.org.uk or call 01346 532017.

Why do meadows matter so much?Just 100 years ago there would have been a meadow in every Aberdeenshire parish, supporting a way of life that had gone on for centuries. They provided grazing and hay for livestock, employment, and food and medicine for the parish and were part of a community's cultural and social history.

A healthy Aberdeenshire fen meadow can be home to over 100 species of wild plants and flowers, such as cuckoo flower, orchids, marsh violet, marsh cinquefoil and marsh scabious, compared to much modern grassland which supports under ten species. In turn, these wild flowers support other meadow wildlife. Bird's-foot trefoil alone is a food plant for over 150 species of insect, which in turn support birds such as skylarks and lapwings.

No two meadows are alike...

A fen meadow in Aberdeenshire has its own characteristic flowers such as lesser butterfly orchids and marsh scabious, whereas the rare upland hay meadows of Yorkshire have flowers such as wood crane's bill and chalk downland typical of Wiltshire is home to tiny burnt tip orchid and devils bit scabious; But this patchwork blanket of colour and character is now starting to look threadbare...

Just 3% of the meadows that existed in the 1930s remain -that's a loss of 7.5 million acres of wild flower grassland. Only 26,000 acres of classic lowland meadows found across England and Wales are left - just 20% the area of the New Forest National Park. In Scotland, there is little lowland semi-natural grassland left... Many iconic meadow species such as ragged robin, harebell and field scabious are now on a watch list. Wood-bitter vetch has disappeared from England, Scotland and most of its stronghold in Wales.

Put simply, the decline of meadows and species-rich grasslands says Plantlife's Dr Trevor Dines, is one of the biggest upsets in the history of UK nature conservation, "If 97% of our woodland was destroyed there'd be a national outcry. But meadows have disappeared from our lives gradually and quietly. Without the roar of chainsaws or the sound of mighty oaks crashing to the ground, a meadow can be ploughed up, unnoticed, in an afternoon."

National Meadows Day is just one part of Save Our Magnificent Meadows, a UK-wide partnership project, supported thanks to National Lottery players. It's the UK's largest partnership project transforming the fortunes of our vanishing wildflower meadows, grasslands and wildlife, led by Plantlife and primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The project is bringing meadows back to life, with the restoration of over 14,000 acres of wildflower meadows across the UK. Working with landowners, volunteers, farmers and trainees nearly 47,000 people have been actively engaged with the project to date. In addition, at RSPB Scotland's Loch of Strathbeg nature reserve ongoing work using specialist cutting equipment and grazing by konik ponies to restore 28 ha of fen meadow has seen significant increases in the numbers of marsh cinquefoil and lesser butterfly orchids. It has also helped birds, providing a home for a record 500 curlews during migration and with snipe breeding there for the first time.

Notes to Editors

Please refer to the media pack for more information about National Meadows Day and the magnificent meadows partnership.

Save Our Magnificent Meadows project, supported thanks to National Lottery players is the UK's largest partnership project transforming the fortunes of our vanishing wildflower meadows, grasslands and wildlife.

Save Our Magnificent Meadows is:

  • Targeting just under 6,000 hectares of wildflower meadows and grasslands in nine strategic landscapes across the UK.
  • Giving people all over the UK the chance to visit, enjoy and learn about our wildflower meadows and grasslands.
  • Raising awareness of the desperate plight of our wildflower meadows and grasslands and equipping communities with the knowledge and skills to reverse this devastating trend.

Led by Plantlife, the partnership is made up of 11 organisations and is primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The partnership consists of Cotswolds Conservation Board, Medway Valley Countryside Partnership, National Trust Wales, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Plantlife, RSPB (working in Scotland and Wiltshire), Scottish Wildlife Trust, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Ulster Wildlife, and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk Follow us on twitter @heritagelottery

Plantlife is the organisation that is speaking up for our wild flowers, plants and fungi. From the open spaces of our nature reserves to the corridors of government, we're here to raise their profile, to celebrate their beauty, and to protect their future. Wild flowers and plants play a fundamental role for wildlife, and their colour and character light up our landscapes. But without our help, this priceless natural heritage is in danger of being lost.

RSPB Scotland is part of the RSPB, the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

Tagged with: Topic: Giving Nature a Home Topic: Reserves