A Helping Hand for Fledgling Flowers

Green-fingered growers are being urged to take part in a new project which will transform patches of land into flourishing flower-filled meadows.

Plugging The Gaps is a new two-year programme being led by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership and funded with a grant of £69,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, (HLF), thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.

species-rich meadow

species-rich meadow

The project, which will be rolled out across Northumberland, Cumbria and County Durham, aims to boost the number of rare wildflower meadows which have been in serious decline since the 1950s.

Botanist Dr Ruth Starr-Keddle, Project Officer with the AONB Partnership, said:
“Our objective is to work with communities to help restore this incredibly important habitat. We need volunteers to help us collect seeds of wildflowers this summer, starting in mid-June and sow them into trays.  Training in seed collection, propagation and meadow restoration will be rolled out to volunteers. And we need people to then help us to look after the growing plants over winter. The wildflower plugs will be planted back into the meadows after a year of growth.”

As well as ensuring iconic meadow species such as great burnet, globeflower and wood crane’s-bill remain in the North Pennines, the work done by Plugging The Gaps will also provide a food source for insects which are dependent on pollen. The new plug plants will be planted into areas in order to link up with existing flower-rich sites and create an unbroken network of nectar.

Along with supporting people to help collect, grow and propagate the seeds, the AONB Partnership will build a new wildflower nursery as part of the project.

Dr Starr-Keddle said:
“We’d also like to hear from anyone who has areas of land they think would be suitable to add plants into as part of Plugging The Gaps, especially farmers and smallholders.”

UK-wide there has been a loss of about 97 per cent of wild flower meadows yet, thanks to less intensive farming practices than in other areas, the North Pennines remains a stronghold with a share of 40 per cent of all remaining upland hay meadows.

Throughout the project the AONB Partnership will be working with various partners including smallholders, farmers, school and community groups.

North Pennines

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