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Making meadows in Snowdonia

Wildflower meadow at Plas Newydd in North Wales, with red poppies, blue cornflowers and daisies.
Wildflower meadow at Plas Newydd in Wales | © National Trust Images/Derek Hatton

A staggering 97 per cent of UK meadows have disappeared since the 1930s. Rangers in Snowdonia are working hard to create and restore these flower-rich grasslands that will benefit a range of wildlife from butterflies to rare birds.

Starting with the seeds

Almost a dozen meadows have been created or restored since 2011, and work is under way with local farmers, the RSPB and Plantlife to increase this number dramatically over the next few years.

To help maintain the provenance and character of local meadows it’s important to find a mixture of local seeds. As part of Plantlife’s Coronation Meadows project, one of the meadows near Penmachno has been recognised as a mature meadow that can donate seeds to help establish new ones.

This meadow is brimming with wild flowers including devil’s bit scabious, the food plant of the rare marsh fritillary butterfly. Seeds from here have been collected by rangers and scattered in fields in the Beddgelert and Nant Ffrancon valleys.

A brown, orange and cream patterned male Marsh Fritillary butterfly
A male Marsh Fritillary butterfly | © National Trust Images/Matthew Oates

A buffet for rare birds

The Nant Ffrancon Valley is one of the UK’s strongholds for a rare bird called the twite. These small brown birds are part of the finch family, breeding in the uplands but feasting on meadows. Some of their favourite foods include the seeds from dandelion, common sorrel, thistle and autumn hawkbit.

The new meadows introduced in the valley are rich in the twite’s favourite foods, helping to make sure they have enough food to see them through the busy breeding season.

Nurturing meadows

Careful management is required in these new meadows, including scarifying, cutting, and winter grazing before and after sowing seeds in order to give them a good chance at germinating and growing. Some sites require several inoculations of seeds, but meadows are by nature habitats that have developed over years of management.

In addition to creating meadows, wild flowers have been planted around National Trust offices and holiday cottages. These little islands of wild flowers help to bridge the gaps between meadows and it’s something that anyone with a garden can do to provide a haven for butterflies, bees and birds.

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