Support for High Weald meadows

Josie Allen (left) and Janet Whitman of the Natural England Field Unit during a grassland survey in Robertsbridge

With current concerns about loss of wildlife populations, High Weald meadow owners and managers in East Sussex are doing their bit to help wildlife.

They have been getting involved in a project to survey wildflower meadows and taking part in training to look after them.

The UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows in less than a century. But many small High Weald fields are managed as hay pastures, and haven’t been ploughed and reseeded. This has left pockets of undisturbed grassland which are havens for colourful wild flowers and butterflies, bees and other insects.

Over 50 High Weald grassland sites in East Sussex have been surveyed for wildlife this summer by a partnership between the High Weald AONB team, Natural England and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

There were some exciting finds, with some previously ‘undiscovered’, wildlife-rich meadows, and thousands of rare, green-winged orchids in just one field.

The surveyed fields are within the Upper Rother and Dudwell Farm Cluster; an area where a group of land managers are working together to benefit the environment. The survey results will help the Farm Cluster members secure financial support for grassland management through the current Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

Wildflower grasslands need careful management and the land managers had a chance to pick the brains of a panel of local experts at a ‘Weald Meadow Managers’ Question Time’.

Tom Burns, Ranger at Sheffield Park said: “I had a great afternoon at the Meadows Question Time. There was loads of useful information and I left full of inspiration.”

The results of the grassland surveys will be shared with land managers and a summary will be published on the High Weald website next year.