Meadows of Mount Stewart
The world famous gardens at Mount Stewart are usually associated with exotic plants from all over the world. What is really surprising to many visitors, is the wonderful wildflower meadows that are to be found in the pleasure grounds and around the lake walk.
The variety of native common spotted orchids are quite breath-taking and this meadow which is managed for the visual splash of colour. Once the plants have flowered, the meadow is cut and the vegetation is removed by hand to reduce enrichment.
This year has been particularly interesting for our wildflower meadows as significant areas of the gardens and pleasure grounds at Mount Stewart have not been mown due to the lockdown period from late March to early June.
These areas have been colonised by wildflowers and inturn have acted like a magnet attracting a plethora of pollinators. The feedback from visitors about this change in management to a less intense regime has been universally positive. We will continue this trend of reduced mowing moving forward.
Pineys Rough Meadow
Undergoing long term restoration, this area is one of the richest grassland habitats we have on the demesne. At first glance it might not look like much but it is awash with over 120 different plant species and in excess of 600 insect & animal species having been recorded here. Many of which are only recoded in mosaic of micro habitats. This gives it the ‘Species-Rich’ status which has been developed for over 300 years.
It has declined in condition due to changes in farming practices and we’re now bringing it back through an appropriate grazing regime. Pineys Rough is the only place where you will find a breeding colony of (not so!) Common Blue Butterfly and Six-Spot Burnett Moth. We hope they will expand into Ploughman’s Meadow.
Ploughman's Hill Wildflower Meadow
This 14 acre field was formerly used for intensively growing potatoes or barley and as part of our Land, Outdoors and Nature (LON) programme work, with very little seed bank remaining in the ground we took the decision in 2018 to plant it with a native wildflower mix.
In the first year that it was sown the seed mix was a composite of annual cornfield flowers such as wild poppy, corn marigold and corncockle that bloom in the first year, but are then replaced as the perennial wild flowers become established. The result is that the appearance of the meadow from the second year onwards is less colourful, but is actually much better for nature.
The meadow is now maturing and has become a magnet for pollinators. On warm & sunny days it literally shimmers with butterflies and numerous other insects. Look closer and see if you can spot the 50 plus different plant species as you explore.
Once, the meadow has flowered, it is cut for hay and then grazed over the winter. We then feed the hay to cattle grazing in other fields on the estate, which results in seeds being dispersed through cow dung and they then colonise fields that were previously devoid of wild flowers.
To ensure visitors can really get up close and appreciate the wildlife and flowers, we mow a path through the meadows, so if you are visiting Mount Stewart between June and August, they really are a must see!
Visiting the Wildflower Meadows at Mount Stewart
Summer wildflower grassland meadows at Mount Stewart can be found at Pineys Rough (next to the squirrel hide) Ploughman’s Hill Meadow and the meadow close to the White Stag. These areas are usually in peak bloom during mid June to early August.