Wildflower meadow walks in Northern Ireland
More than just pretty to the eye, wildflower meadows play an important role in maintaining a healthy eco-system, providing food and a home for a variety of wildlife.
In the last few years we have created 15 extra hectares of wildflower meadows and verges in Belfast, Fermanagh, Cushendun, and Castleward, bringing our total meadows to over 40 hectares – that’s about 80 football pitches of meadows in Northern Ireland!
As well as meadows, we manage wildflower rich dune systems, peatlands, woodlands, wetlands, gardens, hedgerows and orchards - all important for the survival of pollinators like bees, moths and butterflies.
Our Wildlife Adviser, Melina Quinn is encouraging everyone to discover one of our wildflower meadows this summer and if possible, create your own wildflower space at home too.
‘A walk through a meadow to see our native grasses and wildflowers in bloom can really lift the spirits,’ Melina explains. ‘Wildflowers however are not simply pretty to look at but make a big contribution to the health of other wildlife too. They attract a huge variety and number of pollinating insects including butterflies, such as meadow browns, small coppers and common blues, as well as hoverflies and bees.'
Best places for a wildflower walk
Bluebells are followed by splashes of yellow in kidney vetch and bird’s-foot trefoil. Then starry whites of eyebright and chickweeds appear, with the pale pink spikes of the common spotted-orchid appearing in July and the purple haze of devil’s-bit scabious blossoming in late summer.
Look out for knapweed, self-heal, oxeye daisy, plantain and orchids, including the rare greater butterfly orchid. These wildflowers have thrived following a change in the way the land is managed. Instead of being maintained as lawn, the meadows in front of the house and along the drive are now cut just once a year, giving the flowers a chance to flourish and set seed.
Look out for the unmown areas across Castle Ward this summer designed to provide food and shelter for our native pollinators. Why not spent some time in our recently created ‘Broad Meadow’ where yellow rattle and common orchid are already beginning to flourish, and see also how many varieties of butterfly and bee species you can spot. Alternatively, come along and join our Ranger Team in some of their survey and monitoring tasks.
Meadowsweet, orchids, buttercups, yellow rattle and vetches are among the flowers and grasses that can be found, providing a home for moths, flies, bees and butterflies and a host of other wildlife.
White Park Bay and Giant’s Causeway are also home to species rich grasslands with a diverse range of wildflowers such as frog orchid, meadow cranesbill, devil’s-bit scabious, twayblade, meadow vetchling, harebell, kidney vetch, lady’s bedstraw, pyramidal orchid and the common spotted-orchid.
Once a potato field, the 14-acre site at Ploughman’s Hill was seeded with a meadow mix of 21 varieties provided an impressive pictorial meadow including poppies, cornflowers, corn marigolds and ox-eyed daisies. The mix contains annuals for an exceptional display in the first year with perennials which get better and better from year two onwards, so we should be in for a treat this summer!