A MEADOW RESTORATION project in the North Pennines has been completed thanks to National Lottery players – and has sown the seeds of future growth.
The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership’s Plugging the Gaps project worked with volunteers and groups to collect seed then grow and plant native wildflowers to expand the flower-rich grassland of the North Pennines. Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project has engaged more than 300 volunteers through training and events, with a core of 107 active volunteers planting over 12,000 plug plants across 28 sites in the AONB, equalling 28.6 hectares.
Plugging the Gaps was designed to restore upland haymeadow habitats, using native wildflowers to ‘plug the gaps’ in the nectar source corridors and networks across the AONB. These networks for pollinators are vital for the bees and other insects that underpin our whole ecosystem. The project was also able to increase populations of rarer meadow plants such as wood crane’s-bill and globeflowers, which were once a significant feature of traditional haymeadows and flower-rich verges. Whilst the North Pennines is still a stronghold for these important plants, they are continuing to decline here and across the country.
The AONB Partnership also established a wildflower nursery in Allendale to provide a growing space for plug plants during the life of the project. Additional funding for planting materials and equipment came from Northumbrian Water’s Branch Out fund. At the nursery the project worked with vulnerable groups who gained therapeutic benefits through volunteering and engaging with nature. These included groups such as Natural Ability who provide opportunities for people with learning and other disabilities, and the Angelou Centre in Newcastle.
The nursery is now in the hands of an active group of volunteers and the group Higher Ground, a social enterprise using gardening to aid wellbeing. They will manage the space as a community based initiative to encourage the planting of wildflowers and other native plants in meadows, gardens, school grounds, verges and community spaces. Support will be available for anyone wanting to learn more about creating wild areas and using native plants in more formal settings as well as continuing to work on meadow restoration. Proceeds from workshops and plant sales will be used to fund ongoing running of the nursery.
Ben Scotting, Project Officer at the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “The volunteer response to this project was amazing. Their efforts have helped to improve the diversity and numbers of wildflowers in places ranging from upland haymeadows to schools and community centres.
“We’re really pleased to see the volunteer group taking on the nursery and continuing to grow these North Pennines wildflowers into the future.”
To find out more about the Allendale wildflower nursery, including volunteering opportunities and plant sales, contact Ginny Swaile on firstname.lastname@example.org.