Rare North Devon grasslands in first full bloom

On the north Devon coast 90 hectares (222 acres) of newly created rare wildflower meadows have reached their first full bloom, creating a vibrant burst of colour in the summer countryside.

Swathes of bright white oxeye daises, sunshine yellow bird’s-foot trefoil and bright blue viper’s bugloss have flowered along with meadow grasses, filling an area the size of 197 football pitches. These fields have taken two years to establish from 1.3 tons of carefully sourced and sown seeds, as part of the National Trust’s largest ever wildflower grassland project.

Acting as wildflower seed donor sites, throughout the summer National Trust rangers are joined by volunteers to collect seeds either with a brush harvester, seed vacuum or by hand.

Every hectare of donor site harvested will provide enough seed to sow two more hectares of meadows, allowing the National Trust to scale up grassland creation across the southwest.

This sustainable and holistic approach to growing grassland seeds means by the end of 2024 a total of 187 hectares (462 acres) of wildflower grasslands will have been created using seeds from the local area, contributing towards the charities ambitions to create 25,000 hectares of priority habitat by 2025, improving habitats for wildlife and boosting biodiversity.

Species rich grasslands are rare, with only a mere 1% of flower-filled meadows remaining in the UK and are among the most threatened habitats in Britain.

In the west country the conservation charity’s North Devon Grassland project is bringing meadows back, returning them along with the nature that depends on them to 70 miles of the coastal landscape by 2030.

Joshua Day, Project Co-ordinator at the National Trust in North Devon said, “Grasslands can take a long time to establish, some wildflower species can take up to seven years whilst others like Oxeye Daisy can become dominant quicker.

“The sense of anticipation through the last two winters has been high, watching and waiting for the first successful seedlings to emerge. Initial monitoring has shown an increase of wildflower coverage from just 2% to 40% in just two years and we are recording fundamental meadow species such as, yarrow, red Clover, common sorrel and yellow rattle.

“This first full bloom is an indication of success for the future of species rich grasslands here in Devon, returning a diverse range of wildflowers to the countryside which will, in turn, benefit nature and ourselves.”

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