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Cornish coastal meadows project

Staff, volunteers and members of the public hand sow seed at Lanhydrock as part of the Cornish Meadows Project
Staff, volunteers and members of the public hand sow seed accompanied by traditional Cornish folk music at Lanhydrock. | © National Trust Images/Faye Rason

We are working to create 250 hectares of new species rich grassland at National Trust sites across Cornwall. The project, due to be completed by 2026, will help us rise to the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.

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Cornish coastal meadows project

Watch our short video to find out more about how the clifftops and fields across Cornwall are set to be transformed into thriving wildflower meadows, thanks to a three-year conservation project.

Why are wildflower grassland areas important?

UK grassland has more associated priority species than any other habitat type and can support over 700 species of wild plants and 1,400 species of insects.

Unfortunately, 97% of species-rich grassland has been lost in the UK since the 1930s, with the remaining 3% mostly fragmented across the country, leaving little room for wildlife to spread.

At its best, an expertly managed and well-established grassland will create healthy soils that are far more resilient to drought and floods. They can also help us in our fight against climate change, acting as important carbon stores, often more quickly than woodlands.

These colourful and species-rich habitats are also perfect for protecting many of our threatened plants as well as the wildlife that rely on them. The experience of grassland in summer, colourful with orchids, buttercups and betony, buzzing and chirping with bees, butterflies and grasshoppers, accompanied by the whirring and chattering of swifts and swallows has been the inspiration for generations of poets and artists, and the home of folklore and farming history.

Because of the humongous decline in species-rich grassland, a lot of people alive today have never experienced it. We’ve become acclimatised to what we have, not knowing there is something better out there. Projects like this can help us appreciate the environments we could have and, perhaps, deserve.

A quote by Jon StewartNational Trust General Manager for North Cornwall

What are we doing in Cornwall?

Ranger teams across Cornwall will be sowing 50 hectares of new grassland in 2023, 50 hectares in 2024 and 150 hectares in 2025.

The seed has been collected from healthy, already species-rich ‘donor’ meadows across the county, including through partnerships with Natural England, Cornwall Council, Meadow Match, private landowners and the National Wildflower Centre. Over the three years we will harvest, dry, store and sow around 5 tonnes of seed. If we had to buy this seed in, it would cost anywhere from £350,000 to £1 million.

Most of the sites set to benefit from the new grassland are coastal, with a small handful, such as Lanhydrock, further inland. Other locations include Pentire (near Polzeath), Botallack, Gunwalloe and the Roseland as well as many others.

Alongside the benefits for nature and wildlife including threatened coastal wildlife, such as solitary bees, skylarks, swifts and common lizards, the project will create accessible, beautiful, nature-rich places for everyone to enjoy.

All of this work contributes to the National Trust’s aim to create 25,000 hectares of priority habitat on the land in our care by 2025.

Working in partnership

The Cornish coastal meadows project is working in partnership with Cornwall Council, Cornwall and Devon Wildlife Trusts, Buglife, Natural England, Meadow Match and the Eden Project. The project has been made possible by a generous supporter legacy, a generous grant from Delia’s fund and donations to the National Trust.

Project updates

Summer 2023

Seed collection

We spent the summer working with rangers to collect half a tonne of seed from sites across Cornwall, using our brush harvester machine. This runs a nylon brush over the plants and then flicks the seed into a hopper. Once the seed has been dried and cleaned, we bag it up ready for sowing.

Seed collection in Cornwall using a brush harvester machine.
Seed collection in Cornwall using a brush harvester machine. | © National Trust Images
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Nature needs you more than ever

From peaceful woodlands to dramatic coastlines and rolling hills, nature has always been there for us when we've needed it. However, climate change is accelerating the decline of these places of calm. You can help give nature hope for tomorrow by donating today.

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