The spectacular wildflower meadows at Sheepleas, near West Horsley, managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust, are being used as a donor seed source to restore chalk grasslands at the National Trust’s Polesden Lacey and Hatchlands Park in Surrey.
On 25 July 2019 staff from Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) and the National Trust will be harvesting seeds from Surrey’s flagship Coronation Meadow at Sheepleas for the reseeding project.
With the backing of Natural England, Kew Gardens and the National Trust will be harvesting seed at Sheepleas using a brush harvester and by hand. Ripe seed is stripped from the middle and top layers of the sward by a rotating nylon brush and collected in a hopper for drying, processing and storage at the MSB at Wakehurst, near Ardingly in West Sussex.
The seed will be sown at National Trust properties Polesden Lacey and Hatchlands Park later in the summer to help restore a network of high-quality wildflower meadows across Surrey’s North Downs to help bees, butterflies and other pollinators and secure Surrey’s wildflower heritage for the future.
While small fragments of wildflower-rich meadows and grasslands still survive, sadly 97 per cent of meadows have been lost in the last 75 years across the country.
At Sheepleas the Coronation Meadow supports abundant Cowslips in spring and in summer it is covered with Pyramidal Orchids, Bee Orchids, Black Knapweed, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Harebell.
In 2012 when HRH The Prince of Wales, Plantlife's patron, called for the adoption of a Coronation wildflower seed-donor meadow in every county, Sheepleas’ Cowslip Meadow was selected from the short-list for Surrey.
Zoe Channon, liaison officer at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said:
“The best thing about this project is working at a landscape scale, creating more good quality habitat for pollinators across Surrey. Partnership working is so important and so we are thrilled that a conservation charity like the National Trust is taking this initiative.”
Jamie Parsons, area ranger at Polesden Lacey, said:
“This project is part of a large-scale initiative by the National Trust to create or restore 25,000 hectares of priority habitat in the UK by 2025. At Polesden Lacey and Hatchlands Park, we’re restoring 75 hectares of wildflower grasslands which will increase the amount of chalk grassland in Surrey by almost 25% (State of Surrey’s Nature, 2017). By recreating this species rich grassland we hope to significantly increase the populations of butterflies, bees and other insects back into these areas.”
Surrey Wildlife Trust is encouraging people to discover wildflower meadows near them like those at Sheepleas; to visit and enjoy them, celebrate their beauty, recognise their importance and to get involved with their conservation.