Creating wildflower super highways

Friday 1st April 2016

A new community driven project aims to create wildflower super highways and wildlife hubs across the Yorkshire Dales to provide connected pathways, shelter and food for wildlife all year round.

By empowering communities and helping people to engage with and conserve their local wildlife, the new Meadow Links project aims to build ‘stepping stones’ between existing fragmented wildlife havens to enable the movement of species.

Local charity Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) will work in partnership with Buglife, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), Natural England and community groups on this initiative to help wildlife thrive.

Tanya St. Pierre, Meadow Links project officer at YDMT, said: “As part of this project we’d like to work with community groups in the Yorkshire Dales to create ten flagship meadows. We’ll help groups to create a wildlife meadow in their own community space, provide funding for equipment and ‘Sow, grow and mow’ practical training sessions to enable groups to maintain their meadows in years to come. So if you have a group of willing volunteers and an accessible public space about the size of a tennis court, we’d love to hear from you.”

Homeowners and landowners are also being called on to help create 30 additional wildlife patches that will act as stepping stones at strategic points to extend the wildflower highways. These patches can be any shape or size, from linear hedgerows and verges to small back gardens, and could incorporate bird boxes, hogitats (hedgehog habitats), ponds and wildflower areas to support wildlife.

Tanya added: “Since the 1930s we’ve lost 97% of the UK’s hay meadows. Iconic Dales’ birds such as the curlew have declined by 42%, 60% of England’s flowering plants are decreasing and overall a staggering 60% of UK wildlife is declining. The wildlife patches will give nature a helping hand by connecting fragmented habitat and providing important feeding and nesting sites for our wildlife. Prizes will be awarded for the most innovative design features and best overall wildlife patch, so keep photo diaries of what you’ve done!”

Conservation work undertaken through the Meadow Links project will be mapped and recorded onto the ecological networks and connectivity GIS systems for the YDNPA and Buglife’s national B-Lines database. This will help provide a clear picture of the work done, and the areas where further action needs to be taken to create a cohesive and resilient network for wildlife.

Paul Evans, B-Lines Manager at Buglife, said: “Here at Buglife we have mapped the existing network of wildflower-rich pathways – or B-Lines – that crisscross the UK’s countryside, towns and cities. By creating new wildflower-rich habitats in strategically important locations across the Yorkshire Dales, the Meadow Links project will help to extend and improve the national B-Lines network, helping our pollinators and other wildlife move across the landscape.”

Meadow Links is an 18 month project that will run until October 2017, supported by the D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust. It will form part of YDMT’s celebrations to mark 10 years of meadow restoration and education through the Hay Time project. So far the charity has helped to restore over 600 hectares of hay meadows across the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland, with another 55 hectares planned this summer.

If you or your community group would like to create a wildlife patch or community meadow, please contact Tanya St. Pierre at YDMT on 015242 51002 or email [email protected] to find out more.