Urban Meadows

The planting up of small spaces through the Micklefield area creates important ‘stepping stones’ of habitat

Chalk grassland meadows are what can thought of a semi-natural habitats. They were created from woodland clearance and rely on grazing or cutting to maintain their biodiversity. Meadows have a rich flora (up to 40 species in one square metre) and a diverse invertebrate fauna including many butterflies. They are a rare, important and threatened habitat – it took around 6000 years to create these places and in the last 100 years we have lost about 98% of them.

Urban mini-meadows are therefore hugely important. They develop into beautiful places and also help provide life-support for many invertebrates, birds and mammals. The planting up of small spaces through the Micklefield area creates important ‘stepping stones’ of habitat, making new wildlife sites and helping to connect existing areas of grassland – the orchid and wildflower-rich areas behind Ash Hill School and on Gomm’s Bank and the grassland areas in Highfield & Hangingcroft Wood are good examples. They are of benefit to both people and place.

Converting these spaces into meadows is done through sowing seeds and planting wildflower plugs. Early spring is a good time to do this. The species can vary but would generally include a mix of low and tall growing varieties with differing flowering times and a mix of annuals and perennials. The most commonly planted species would include:

  • Oxeye daisy
  • Greater knapweed
  • Cornflower
  • Meadow cranesbill
  • Mallow
  • Field scabious
  • Yarrow
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Corn marigold
  • Bird’s-foot trefoil
  • Salad burnet
  • Small teasel
  • Yellow rattle
  • Cornflower
  • Common poppy

Meadows can develop quite quickly or take a couple of years to establish – be prepared to wait. They also have a different mowing regime to amenity grassland, usually being cut only once or twice a year with the arisings being removed from site so as not to fertilise the soil as wildflowers like nutrient poor conditions. Wildflowers can have a limited flowering time and the meadow can take on a slightly unmanaged look towards the end of the season. However it’s important to leave time for the seeds to set and continue the evolution of the meadow community and also these can provide a food source for birds, for example finches in particular feed on teasels. The meadow is then cut.

We would love to have as many people as possible get involved with the planting of these areas!