Community wildlife scheme needs volunteers at Watermead

A view over Watermead
A view over Watermead

Nature lovers are being urged to take part in an innovative community wildlife scheme to help create a nationally rare floodplain meadow in Aylesbury.

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) have already planted a species rich hedgerow on a disused patch of land close to Watermead crematorium as part of the Hedgerow Havens project.

The team, which is assisted by the Vale Countryside Volunteers and the Chiltern Rangers, has readied the ground for a new meadow. Volunteers are now needed to sow the seed of 19 different wildflowers at a special event on October 5th.

Floodplain meadows are one of Buckinghamshire’s most threatened habitats. Over the last 75 years, the amount of meadow in the UK has declined by 97% due to land drainage, changes in agriculture and urban development and, of that, the amount of floodplain meadow that remains is estimated at 1,171 hectares. Yet these remaining isolated fragments are home to an unprecedented richness of species; hundreds of different wild flowers provide the life support for our invertebrates, birds and mammals.

“During the summer the meadow will fill with the sights of butterflies, bees and dragonflies and buzz with the sounds of grasshoppers and crickets,” says Marcus Militello, Hedgerow Havens Project Officer at BBOWT.

“The species rich hedge will provide vital nesting sites for various birds. Four hedgerow trees have been planted: aspen, poplars and willow, and when these mature they will be invaluable to wildlife, providing support for all sorts of insects, birds, mammals, fungi, mosses, lichens and more,” he says.

Meadow flowers take a couple of years to really come into their own but you can expect to see them starting to look their best by summer 2021.

In winter, longer grasses and dense hedgerow bases will provide cover for small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews and maybe even hedgehogs. The berries on the hedges will continue to provide food for birds and mammals throughout the colder months. If hedgehogs and shrews manage to make their way onto the site then the high number of insects supported by the meadow will continue to feed them throughout the year.

The volunteer day will involve some raking of the ground to ready the soil, followed by sowing of the seeds.

“The scheme’s success relies on the support of local landowners and communities across the project area,” says Christopher Williams, BBOWT’s Land Management & People Engagement Director.

“It has generated some great initiatives, such as here at Watermead, and created or restored spaces for wildlife now awash with wild plants, pollinating insects, animals and birds for everyone to enjoy.”

Cllr Paul Irwin, AVDC’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Leisure said “I greatly support the Hedgerows Havens Project we are delivering with our local Wildlife Trust along with support from volunteer groups, and it’s fantastic to see work being done to ensure valuable habitats are created”.

The seed sowing will start at 10am on Saturday, October 5th on the patch of land near Watermead crematorium. The group will meet at Watermead piazza, Lakeside.