Restoring rare wildflower meadows
Plugging the Gaps is a two year project to boost the number of rare wildflower meadows in the North Pennines AONB and UNESCO Global Geopark.
The project is being led by the North Pennines AONB Partnership and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Dr Ruth Starr-Keddle, Project Officer with the AONB Partnership, is looking for communities to help restore this incredibly important habitat, which has been in serious decline since the 1950s.
Teams of volunteers from local communities, schools, smallholders and more are being trained to carry out conservation activities. They will collect wildflower seeds from roadside verges and other flower-rich places, propagate these seeds over winter and then plant out the year-out plug plants into upland hay meadows and local community spaces. There will also be a wildflower nursery, developed with the help of local communities, which will create a growing space to look after wildflower plug plants.
During summer 2017, over 100 people signed up to help with the project. Eleven seed collecting days were organised where participants learnt about a variety of techniques used to collect wildflower seeds from the most flower-rich places in the North Pennines. We have been focusing our seed collecting effort on the iconic North Pennines wildflowers such as wood crane’s-bill, globeflower, melancholy thistle, Lady’s-mantle and great burnet. These special flowers have been disappearing from our landscape – see our Hay Time and Nectarworks projects for more information about the decline of botanical diversity in upland hay meadows. These seed collecting days will be repeated in summer 2018 and help is needed to do this!
During autumn 2017, 12 seed sowing workshops were organised where participants learnt about a variety of techniques to clean and sow wildflower seeds. Participants were trained in seed sorting, seed storage, seed propagation and germination requirements. We discussed the use of different types of seed trays, pots and types of compost and participants learnt how to look after wildflower plug plants. These seed sowing workshops will be repeated in summer 2018 and we need your help to do this!
Looking after plug plants
During winter 2017 and into spring 2018, volunteers have been looking after plug plants in their own back gardens – we now have over 400 trays filled with little germinating seedlings! The trays with emerging seedlings need to be kept outside, sheltered from the wind, and with good sunlight. They then need to be watered occasionally until they grow into bigger, more established plants.
We have just finished building a wildflower nursery at the old Allendale First School playing field in the centre of Allendale town. We have used the funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to buy a polytunnel, shed, fencing, plastic mesh and a watering system. We are looking for volunteers to help with looking after the wildflower nursery site and there will be various potting-on events during summer and autumn 2018. A group of local volunteers are watering the plants on a daily basis and we are looking for more volunteers to help be a part of the warden team.
During summer 2018, sites will be surveyed to assess their suitability for planting plug plants into. We would like people to help with these botanical surveys and training will be given in early June. If you think you have a suitable space for planting out plug plants, please let us know so we can assess the site during in the summer.
In autumn 2018, the year-old plug plants will be planted into upland hay meadows, roadside verges and community spaces in order to link up with existing flower-rich sites and create an unbroken network of nectar within the North Pennines. We aim to plant out over 10,000 plug plants across 30 sites, and we are looking for volunteers to help with this.
We need volunteers to help with seed collecting, seed sowing, looking after plug plants, helping at the wildflower nursery, undertaking botanical surveys and planting out plug plants. Please email Ruth Starr-Keddle for more information about helping out with the project: firstname.lastname@example.org