I know a bank where the wild thyme blows/Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows‘-so said Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Romantic, colourful wildflower meadows are more than just a dreamy Shakespearian summer idyll, however-they are vital, undisturbed havens for rare species of birds, butterflies and other insects, and plants as well as honeybees. Welsh farms used to set aside a cae ysbyty or ‘hospital field’ as a meadow for sick animals to recover in.
Now, The Prince of Wales, who will edit the November 13 issue of COUNTRY LIFE, has suggested that a wildflower meadow should be identified in every county in an effort to redress the dramatic loss of them- a shocking 97%-since the 1930s. Already, the first 60 Coronation Meadows to mark the 60th anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation have been announced.
‘The idea came to me when I read [the charity] Plantlife’s 2012 report and fully appreciated just how many wildflower meadows had been lost over the past 60 years,’ explains Prince Charles, whose own meadow at his Gloucestershire home, Highgrove, has been evolving for the past 30 years. ‘This year, we are celebrating my mother’s Coronation, so surely there is no better moment to end this destruction and to stimulate a new mood to protect our remaining meadows and to use them as springboards for the restoration of other sites and the creation of new meadows right across the UK.’
In conjunction with Plantlife, the idea this summer is for the remaining counties each to be assigned a meadow, to find more sites throughout the UK where new meadows can be established using green hay and seed from the Coronation Meadow, and to create the first inventory of Britain’s meadows, for which Plantlife will be seeking help from the public.
Plantlife’s chief executive, Victoria Chester, says The Prince has given the charity ‘a challenge to conserve species and yet maintain their essential wildness’. She continues: ‘In an age when we too often turn to the quick-fix of commercial “nectar mixes”, the Coronation Meadows project is both a celebration and a pledge to our children and grandchildren, using the floral riches of the past to create meadow gems for the future.’ The 60 established Coronation Meadows range in size from 400- acre Therfield Heath in Hertfordshire, which is home to one of Britain’s largest populations of pasque flowers, to Hayton Meadow in Shropshire, which is less than an acre in size.
To find the location of your nearest Coronation Meadow, visit www.coronationmeadows.org.uk and enter your postcode.
* Follow Country Life magazine on Twitter