For the first time, the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a unique partnership of conservation organisations including the Cotswolds Conservation Board - led by Plantlife - funds to plan a national natural heritage project to protect and conserve the UK's remaining fragments of meadows. Nearly 7.5 million acres have been lost so far and they are still being destroyed. And once gone, they are irreplaceable.
What is a meadow?
Meadows of native wild flowers are enjoying a huge vogue in gardening; they look beautiful and attract wildlife, particularly threatened pollinators. But the real wild flower meadows are vanishing - and with them our native flowers such as green-winged orchid, pasqueflower, oxeye daisy and horseshoe vetch. Meadows and grasslands are an intrinsic part of the Cotswolds and UK's natural and cultural heritage: rich in landscape character, folklore and history.
There were once natural wildflower meadows in every parish in the UK - today only 2% of the meadows that existed in the 1930s remain.
The Save our Magnificent Meadows project aims to protect, conserve and restore wildflower meadows across the UK, and will focus on the flower-rich limestone grasslands of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty along with grasslands in other parts of the country.
Two key aims are:
1. to raise awareness of their importance with the general public
2. to raise awareness to their importance with landowners and those who manage the land.
To help find out more about what people know and to give them a chance to say how they would like to help in the fight to save meadows and grasslands, an online survey has been set up at http://tinyurl.com/savingmagnificentmeadows
Simon Smith from Cotswolds Conservation Board said: "Until recently, wild flowers had a prominent place in our imaginations. They were familiar to anyone who walked in the country and we knew their names. So, we are absolutely delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us and our partner organisations the chance to save what's left of the UK's meadows in key areas, for our children and our children's children. A vital part of this planning is finding out what people know about wildflower meadows and grasslands and how they'd like to get involved in the fight to protect, conserve and restore them. The UK's wildflower meadows and grasslands are facing a very uncertain future. We want to encourage as many people as possible to complete our online survey. Everyone can help us make a difference by telling us what they think and sharing their ideas at http://tinyurl.com/savingmagnificentmeadows. The information from this survey is vital to highlight key issues and help us plan opportunities for people to find out more and get involved."
*A first-round pass/initial support means the project meets HLF criteria for funding and HLF believes the project has potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for Lottery money. The application was in competition with other supportable projects, so a first-round pass is an endorsement of outline proposals. Having been awarded a first-round pass, the project now has up to two years to submit fully developed proposals to compete for a firm award.
On occasion, an applicant with a first-round pass will also be awarded development funding towards the development of their scheme.
The Save Our Magnificent Meadows project partnership
The project partnership consists of 11 organisations across the UK:
Plantlife (leading the project)
Cotswolds Conservation Board
East Lothian Council
Medway Valley Countryside Partnership, Kent County Council
Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Pori Natur a Threftadaeth (PONT)
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Somerset Wildlife Trust
The Conservation Volunteers
Ulster Wildlife Trust
Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
The partnership is also supported by Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Plantlife is the organisation that is speaking up for our wild flowers and plants. From the open spaces of our nature reserves to the corridors of Westminster, 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.
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported over 30,000 projects, allocating £4.7 billion across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk
About the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Cotswolds was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966 in recognition of its rich, diverse and high quality landscape. www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk
The Cotswolds AONB is looked after by the Cotswolds Conservation Board - an independent organisation established in 2004 which has 37 members - 15 nominated by local authorities, 8 by parish councils and 14 appointed by the Secretary of State.
The Cotswolds is the second largest protected landscape in England after the Lake District National Park and represents 10% of the total AONB area in the UK. It covers 2,038 square kilometres (790 square miles), stretching from Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the north, through Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, down to Bath and Wiltshire in the south.
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), along with National Parks, are considered to be the most special landscapes in the country and belong to an international family of protected areas. There are 38 AONBs in England and Wales, and a further eight in Northern Ireland. For further details, visit:
Source: Cotswolds Conservation Board