Meadow conservation at Kedleston

Meadow field with blue flowers and trees in the distance

Meadows are now one of the rarest habitats in the UK. Since 1900, almost 1.6 million hectares of wildflower meadows have been lost but with your support, we’re making more space for nature at Kedleston.

Why have meadows become so rare? 

A lot has changed in the last 100 years. The English landscapes of the past have been lost due to the transformation of agricultural methods. Hay produced from summer meadows, rich in a wide range of wildflowers, used to be one of the key sources of winter forage for farm animals. The widespread switch to silage making in the 1960s has meant a vast reduction in the area of hay meadows nationally and the loss of habitat for birds like the curlew and lapwing and a host of insects.

Restored meadows in the Kedleston parkland
Green meadow pastures
Restored meadows in the Kedleston parkland

What is the impact of the reduction in meadows?

Wildflower meadows provide vital habitats for much of our wildlife. The loss in meadow habitats has led to a devastating decline in our wildlife populations, stripping our bugs, butterflies, small birds and mammals of their natural homes.

When wildflower meadows disappear so do our pollinators
Bee on purple wildflower
When wildflower meadows disappear so do our pollinators

Bringing meadows back to Kedleston parkland

Within the Kedleston parkland we have been implementing careful meadow management. 
Two experimental wildflower plots have been set up in the North park along the Wilderness Walk (just beyond Hay Wood.) 

The first plot had two treatments: the Hay Wood side was spread with green hay from a local wildflower meadow while the further side had a commercial wildflower seed mix applied. Both areas have developed a good range of wildflowers with a yellow patch of birds foot trefoil as well shorter grasses and oxeye daisies. Birds foot trefoil is the food plant of the common blue butterfly so we hope some will soon arrive! Wild carrot is also in the mix and there are several spikes of the blue viper’s bugloss.

The second plot (further towards North Lodge and by the long side of Bracken Wood) was sown with a different commercial mix of mostly annual cornfield plants such as cornflower, corncockle and scentless mayweed. This area is far better than the grazed parkland outside though it will need further treatment .

Oxeye daisy, hay rattle and viper’s bugloss are growing in the meadow
White, pink and blue meadow flowers and grasses
Oxeye daisy, hay rattle and viper’s bugloss are growing in the meadow

Kedleston rangers have erected electric fences to protect the area and stop the Dexter cows eating the flowers whilst they grow flower and seed.

In tandem with this project, earlier in the year, the team carried out some felling of trees in Hay Wood. This had a dual purpose both preventing tree crowding and creating space for the veteran tress but it also will help to revert scrubby woodland to wood pasture, another habitat in decline.

Electric fences protect the Dexter cows eating the meadow flowers whilst they grow flower and seed
Electric fence around green meadow land
Electric fences protect the Dexter cows eating the meadow flowers whilst they grow flower and seed

Thanks to your continued support, we can help bring back our magnificent meadows, restoring flower-rich grass and meadowland habitats, so life and colour can flourish once again.