Meadows, with their beautiful flowers and grasses, provide nectar-rich food for our bumblebees, butterflies and moths, as well as habitat and larder for many of our most endearing mammals and birds.
Flower-rich meadows have been part of the British landscape for thousands of years. Managed in traditional ways through hay-making and grazing rather than the intensive farming methods of today, these unimproved pastures contain a wonderful diversity of native wildflowers and grasses, vital for supporting the bumblebees and other pollinating insects that feed on them. Oxeye daisy, Bird's-foot trefoil, Betony, Yellow Rattle, Self-heal and Red Clover mix with meadow grasses such as the Crested dog's-tail and Sweet Vernal grass providing an important source of nectar for pollinators and sweet hay for winter feed for grazing animals.
For the last 15 years, the Meadows Nectar Networks Initiative (MNNI) has been working to conserve and restore the ancient meadows of South-East England's High Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With a landscape of rolling hills, woodlands and field systems that date back to Anglo-Saxon times, the High Weald is home to several kinds of grassland butterflies including the Common Blue, Dingy Skipper, and Small Copper. Bumblebees, moths, and hoverflies are among important pollinators feeding here and the Barn Owl, Green Woodpecker and Skylark are often seen. Frogs, bats, voles and hedgehogs are among the wide variety of species contributing to this area of high biodiversity.
Semi-natural grasslands depend on sympathetic management, such as mowing for hay, low intensity grazing by livestock, or a combination of both management techniques. They are vital for the provision of high-quality, sustainable food production.From the 1950's, the management of unimproved grasslands changed radically with the advent of fertilisers and herbicides and the introduction of more productive ryegrasses and efficient drainage systems. The wide variety of nectar-rich meadow plants which prefer poorer and unimproved soils were gradually lost, impacting significantly on the species-rich populations they support.
The Meadows Nectar Networks Initiative raises the awareness of the value of meadows by demonstrating to the public and landowners what can be achieved to reverse their decline, in the hope that others will follow this amazing example! The initiative was originated by the High Weald AONB at Flimwell and in 2010 transferred to the leadership of the High Weald Landscape Trust (WMI -Weald Meadows Initiative). More recently it has been associated with The Grasslands Trust, now sadly no more.
Over the last 15 years the MNNI has developed a wide range of knowledge and expertise that has helped stem the decline of traditional grassland and ensure the successful establishment of new species-rich meadows. As a direct result, many meadows have been recognised, protected, enhanced or created within the Weald utilising native wild harvested local provenance seed.
Today, the MNNI provides practical support to landowners with the management, enhancement and creation of lowland meadow across the Weald. Meadows Officer Dawn Brickwood undertakes all contact and carries out surveys, produces plans and advises on grants, runs events and co-ordinates the wild harvesting of meadow seeds for banking, projects and supply of Weald Native Origin Seed.
All seed is wild harvested in the Weald and is of local provenance.
Current initiatives include our work with:
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the UK Native Seed Hub, safeguarding our native meadow species
- Wildflower Turf , planting wildflowers and grasses featured at the 2012 Olympics in specially selected locations to promote regional biodiversity and sustainability.
- And partners who continue to display the Vanishing Meadows Exhibition.
We thank all organisations, partners, individuals and donors who support us including: Meadow owners and managers; High Weald Landscape Trust; The High Weald AONB Unit and Joint Advisory Committee; Agrifactors working with Memorandum of Collaboration partners; The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Also the established Weald Meadows Group members made up of Kew; The Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group; Sussex Botanical Recording Society; Sussex University; Sussex Wetland Landscapes Project; The National Trust - Sheffield Park & Batemans. Finally The Grasslands Trust; the Nineveh Charitable Trust, The Tubney Charitable Trust, and our private donors.
MNNI is based at:
The Ox Lodge, Beech Farm, Netherfield Hill, Battle, East Sussex, TN33 0LL. Tel: 01424 774668