To celebrate the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III, English Heritage will partner with Salisbury’s Plantlife to enhance and create one hundred meadows at its castles and abbeys, prehistoric stone circles and palaces.
From Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain to the Jewel Tower right in the heart of Westminster, over the course of the next decade, the charity will create a natural legacy at its historic sites – establishing flower-rich grasslands right across England, restoring those that have been lost and enhancing those that already exist.
In the local area, both Stonehenge and Old Sarum have been selected for meadow sites.
Since the 1930s and the advent of post-war modern farming practices, the UK has lost 97% of its meadows. Prior to this, much of England’s grassland – from meadows, road verges and lawns – would have been home to a much more diverse flora than exists today.
While the English Heritage estate is relatively unusual in not having been subject to changing agricultural policy, the grassland surrounding its historic monuments has become ‘municipalised’ over the past century; diminishing the botanical diversity enjoyed by earlier generations.
There is an abundance of sites where – with the right management – meadows (both big and small) can be created and flourish. The creation and enhancement of wildflower-rich grasslands across England will not only benefit nature, but healthy grasslands are proven to tackle pollution and permanently lock away atmospheric carbon below ground.
As well as the benefits to the environment, for visitors to the sites, it is hoped that the grasslands will evoke a sense of the experiences the historic occupants of those sites would have had.
Kate Mavor, English Heritage’s chief executive, said: “The King’s coronation is a significant moment in history and we wanted to mark it in a meaningful way, in a way that combines two of His Majesty’s passions – nature and heritage. We’re creating more natural spaces at the heart of our historic properties, ensuring that wildflowers and wildlife can flourish there once again, and helping our visitors to step back into history and experience something with which the sites’ historic occupants would have been familiar.
“In a decade’s time, our coronation pledge will be an inspiring legacy of established, restored and new meadows at 100 of our historic sites – big and small – right across England. We hope that it will encourage local communities to get involved and help transform their local heritage sites into flower-rich meadows, which, in turn, will improve the quality and diversity of other grassland in the local area.”
English Heritage is partnering with Plantlife – Europe’s largest charity dedicated to saving wild plants and fungi – on this initiative. Plantlife will support English Heritage by providing resources and expertise, skills development training and knowledge exchange opportunities as the project progresses.
A key component of the initiative is to involve and engage with local communities around each of our meadow sites. Working with wildlife groups and volunteers local to each site, English Heritage will source seed from existing meadows in the area to ensure the reintroduction of viable, local species of wildflower to each site.
The range and diversity of the charity’s sites, on different soils and geology, will enable this national programme to enhance a unique range of landscapes – from damp acid grasslands to dry chalk grasslands with shallow soils – thus enhancing local character and biodiversity. This will not only benefit local wildlife but also provide a more authentic historic experience for visitors.
Ian Dunn, Plantlife’s chief executive, said: “Plantlife is delighted to be working with English Heritage on meadow creation. This new and exciting partnership offers a lifeline to a hundred key grassland sites and their associated wildlife, and focuses on a chapter of English natural history lost and all but forgotten.
“Together, we look forward to a future where England’s best historic sites boast the highest quality grasslands, supporting a myriad of diverse meadow plants and wildlife. With so many of our grassland wild plant species facing severe risks, this insightful initiative is unquestionably a step in the right direction.”