Nationally during the 20th century 97% of wildflower meadows were lost. They were once common along the Nene valley but many were lost to gravel extraction and intensive agriculture.
Holm Meadow at Chester Farm was identified in 2014 as having great potential for restoration and it was felt that this riverside field could be taken back to the wildflower meadow that it would have been for much of Chester Farm's history. Due to lack of management the coarse grasses had taken over and the wildflowers once present were gone.
Thanks to a grant from the Nene Valley Nature Improvement Area programme, Holm Meadow will become a healthier network of habitats for wildlife to move through and thrive in. It is through projects like this that Northamptonshire can now claim that between 2008 and 2014 it has gained 60% more lowland meadow.
Creating a wildflower meadow is no quick fix and it will take five years or more for it to achieve its full potential. Preparation is everything and restoration a long term commitment.
Andy Russell, Operational Site Manager, began by flail mowing the meadow, cutting as close to the ground as possible. It was then scarified – strips of loosened grass were created, opening up the sward in preparation for sowing. Seed was sown using 'fiddlers' a traditional seed spreading device; the seed was a meadow mixture for wetlands. The seeded areas were then rolled to help germination.
Hay cuts will continue once or twice each summer. This is to ensure that meadow grasses and flowers can flower and set seed but are not overwhelmed by less desirable thuggish plants.