Wildlife Trust wants your help to raise £330,000 to secure rare meadowland in Bucks

Ludgershall Meadows is a remarkable time capsule of England from hundreds of years ago and vitally important for wildlife and climate, says the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust.

Monday, 19th July 2021, 11:26 am
Updated Monday, 19th July 2021, 11:28 am

Buckinghamshire's local Wildlife Trust has launched a major £330,000 fundraising appeal to buy a unique historic meadowland site - before it’s lost forever.

The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is asking the public to help rescue Ludgershall Meadows in Buckinghamshire, which is a remarkable time capsule of England from hundreds of years ago and vitally important for wildlife and climate.

The 31-hectare site near Bicester includes extremely rare floodplain meadow habitat, which has been almost entirely destroyed in the UK in recent years by inappropriate development.

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Meadow brown butterfly

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Debbie Lewis, BBOWT’s head of ecology, said: "The opportunity we have at Ludgershall is so exciting. Floodplain meadow habitat of the type found here is extremely rare - there is less than 1,500 hectares in the whole country. Lowland meadows in general have suffered devastating losses since the early 20th century due to development and intensification of farming practices.

"If we don’t buy this land, it is in serious jeopardy from being turned into pony paddocks. The field sizes would be dramatically reduced and they would be overgrazed, resulting in a permanent and irretrievable loss of wildlife."

The three fields at Ludgershall Meadows form part of a ‘wild jigsaw puzzle’ of sites managed by BBOWT near the village of Ludgershall, between Bicester and Aylesbury.

Ludgershall Meadows

The meadow is in the heart of the Upper Ray Valley, where the trust has been creating a network of reserves since 1981.

Securing Ludgershall would be another vital piece of its wild jigsaw, creating wildlife corridors and encouraging wildlife to thrive.

Ludgershall Meadows is also an important site because it still has evidence of medieval-style ridge-and-furrow ploughing. These centuries-old banks and ditches show that the three fields have never been intensively managed for agriculture.

The meadows now harbour an invaluable population of two of the UK's rarest butterfly species - black and brown hairstreaks - as well as protected great crested newts and important birds such as linnets, reed buntings and skylarks.

Using expert management techniques - such as spreading freshly cut green hay from the wildflower meadows at neighbouring Leaches Farm - the trust will be able to protect the habitat of existing species, while also attracting more insects, amphibians and small mammals. This can in turn attract birds of prey such as barn owls, and overwintering snipe.

The appeal is part of BBOWT’s vision for a wilder landscape across the region. The trust is aiming to achieve 30 per cent of land in Berks, Bucks and Oxon well managed for nature by 2030. Securing Ludgershall Meadows would complete another vital piece in the giant jigsaw, or nature recovery network, that BBOWT is aiming to create across its three counties.

BBOWT's chief executive, Estelle Bailey, said: "We are currently facing an environmental emergency in this country, with dozens of species in alarming decline and our climate in crisis.

"We think the way to tackle this problem is to have more nature everywhere – for nature, for climate and for people.

"Having isolated nature reserves where wildlife is kept like a zoo will not be enough to save our struggling species.

"To foster healthy, thriving wildlife populations, we need a giant network of spaces for nature that species can move between, to build a wildlife web that gets stronger, not weaker, with time.

"Ludgershall Meadows is a vital piece in that giant, wild, living jigsaw puzzle and we hope people will help us save it – but we need to act urgently."

BBOWT is aiming to raise the £330,000 total by September 10this year.

To donate to the Ludgershall Meadows appeal to save this special site for wildlife, people and climate visit www.bbowt.org.uk/ludgershall

ust work to protect and restore them.