In July this year, three leading wildlife charities: Plantlife, The Wildlife Trusts and The Rare Breeds Survival Trust, held a conference to discuss the need for radical new action to reverse the loss of the UK’s meadow heritage. Prince Charles attended, as did representatives from Defra, academics and practitioners from conservation, food and farming and rural development.
Well known naturalist Mark Avery (former Conservation Director of the RSPB) produced a report of the meeting which is available to download as a pdf from Plantlife’s web site (link below). It’s well worth reading (and Monmouthshire Meadows Group gets a mention, as well as the Parish Grasslands Project).
Reversing the Trend (pdf)
Mark wrote a version of his report on his blog
The organisations involved are now tasked with keeping up the momentum from this initiative. Here in Monmouthshire and across the river in Gloucestershire we’ve led the way, and around the country other initiatives are springing up. One of the latest is Bedfordshire Cambridgeshire Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust’s campaign Cut and Chew which “aims to ensure the long-term survival of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire’s permanent grasslands, by promoting good management, restoration and appreciation of them.” MMG has attended meetings with people from other parts of the country (most recently, Carmarthenshire and Devon) looking to set up meadows groups along similar lines to us.
Mark Avery’s report ends with 10 priorities for action, copied below. Individuals can do something, but it requires a concerted effort from many different agencies to reverse the trend because, as Mark says, we need to do something urgently or the game is lost.
Mark’s Ten Priority Actions
1. Raise the public profile of the value of meadows so that they and their owners receive greater public support
2. Research the services and benefits of meadows so that the evidence is even more convincing: for example in flood prevention or nutritional value
3. Transfer more meadows into conservation stewardship – by communities, skilled farmers or conservation bodies – and where necessary into conservation ownership
4. Notify all high-quality meadows under existing legislation to protect them and enable public funding and use the planning system better to protect undesignated sites
5. Capture and record meadow history , including losses, to know more about what and why we have and could restore
6. Talk to farmers who own meadows and manage traditional stock to understand their needs and aspirations and to learn and share their knowledge
7. Promote the businesses of meadow-conserving farmers and buy the products they make
8. Increase direct payments to those farmers who protect meadows in the long term
9. Re-create new meadows on former sites the “right way” and where they link with existing meadows and share skills in this specialist undertaking
10. Establish an inventory of meadows as a means of focusing efforts to where quality is poor or to join up sites and to record our successes and failures.