Magnificent Meadows survey aims to record flora ‘for future generations to enjoy’

PUBLISHED: 20:35 01 July 2018 | UPDATED: 20:35 01 July 2018

Lavenham Natural History Group at Kedington churchyard

Lavenham Natural History Group at Kedington churchyard


Turning up to discover that the meadow you are due to survey for wild plants has been recently mowed is one of the obstacles the amateur botanist must overcome.

Over 80 wild  plants were found at Kedington churchyardOver 80 wild plants were found at Kedington churchyard

And so it was for the Lavenham Natural History Group when they visited Kedington churchyard earlier this month, only to find that the vast majority of the space had been given a short back and sides.

Undeterred, they pushed on, intent on finding and identifying as many different species of flora as possible.

It was an example of human determination in the face of a setback but also a demonstration of how wild plants are able to grow and flourish in the craggiest of places - pellitory-of-the-wall sprouting from the church foundations, wood dock in the verges against the churchyard wall, common mouse-ear in the cracks between paving slabs.

In total, over 80 plants were identified by the group and listed on a spreadsheet by volunteer Roxanne Clark.

“Identifying plants means that you really have to look at them in detail,” she said.

“You notice lots of things about them that you may have barely registered before - little lines of hairs, the structure of the flower, the arrangement of the leaves, the size of the foliage. All of these details are suddenly brought to your notice on a plant that you might otherwise have hardly noticed before.”

The group’s visit to Kedington is part of a wider project - coined ‘Magnificent Meadows in the Stour Valley’ - being run by the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project in conjunction with the Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service (SBIS).

It involves volunteers carrying out botanical surveys in the Stour Valley at around 15 County Wildlife Sites in Suffolk and the same number of Local Wildlife Sites in Essex. Many of the sites are privately owned and therefore landowner permission must be obtained for the surveys to take place, whilst other sites are open access, such as roadside nature reserves, churchyards and Woodland Trust sites.

Results of the survey will be used to update data on important wildflower sites in the Stour ValleyResults of the survey will be used to update data on important wildflower sites in the Stour Valley

The findings will be used to update SBIS records and help ensure these locations stay protected.

Alongside the Lavenham group, Colchester’s Natural History Society is also involved, as well as other volunteers who in May received free training in wildflower identification from Dr Stephen Clarkson, the botanical County Recorder for Essex, at Essex Wildlife Trust’s Abbotts Hall Farm at Gt Wigborough.

The Magnificent Meadows initiative has been timed to tie-in with National Meadows Day, an annual event led by the Plantlife charity to get people all over the UK to celebrate the wild flowers and other flora in their vicinity. In 2017, more than 125 events took place across the country.

This year’s local event takes place on the green at Long Melford from 11am to 4pm on Saturday July 7th when experts will be on hand to help with wildflower identification. There will also be an opportunity to have a go at painting wild flowers with a local artist while meadow-related activities for children will include minibeast hunts and environmental art.

Chair of the Dedham Vale Area AONB and Stour Valley Joint Advisory Committee, Councillor Nigel Chapman said the Magnificent Meadows project “is an excellent example of how partnership working helps biodiversity” and that the collective efforts “hope to ensure the flora at these precious grassland sites are recorded and preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

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