The search is on for Northern Ireland’s top Meadow Makers

Devil's bit scabious in bloom at wildflower meadow near Knockmore Cliffs, Co.Fermanagh
Devil's bit scabious in bloom at wildflower meadow near Knockmore Cliffs, Co.Fermanagh

Flower-rich meadows and grasslands have declined disastrously in recent decades, resulting in not only the loss of huge chunks of Northern Ireland’s natural grassland heritage, but also a host of native wildflowers and threatened pollinators.

The search has begun for Northern Ireland’s most successful ‘Meadow Makers’: landowners, smallholders and farmers, who have successfully juggled the challenges of running farm businesses, while conserving wildflower meadows and grasslands.

As part of Save Our Magnificent Meadows, the UK’s largest partnership project transforming the fortunes of vanishing wildflower meadows, grasslands and wildlife, this Award will acknowledge their efforts. Led by Plantlife, the partnership of 11 organisations including Ulster Wildlife, is working to restore 6,000 hectares of wildflower meadows and grasslands, primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

These people are the unsung heroes of the conservation world, setting a fantastic example of how to protect our meadow heritage, and inspiring others to follow suit. Recognising their achievements with this national Award is an opportunity to appreciate and celebrate their commitment to the conservation of the UK’s last surviving meadows. Perhaps, they have taken challenging steps to adopt wildlife-friendly management techniques like at Drumgormley Farm in Derrgonnelly where Gerry and Stephen Cassidy have been managing their devil’s bit scabious meadows by clearing scrub, or restored a neglected site to a glorious hay meadow with help from volunteers, like Monastery meadows in Enniskillen. We want to share their stories.

Giles Knight, Grassland Conservation Officer with Ulster Wildlife says: “Farmers and landowners are valuable custodians of our landscape and have an important role to play in protecting Northern Ireland’s remaining wildflower meadows and reversing the trend of loss by creating more. This award is a great way to celebrate and reward their positive work helping nature thrive on their land and hopefully it will encourage many more to become meadow champions.”

Marian Spain, CEO of Plantlife, says: “Meadows were once a common feature of our countryside throughout the UK. We want to showcase the work of those who are helping to conserve the remaining ones, as inspiration to help reverse a lifetime of loss.”

Nominations for ‘Meadow Makers’ are welcome from now to 31 July with the winners for each nation (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) announced in September 2015. For more information and details on how to enter, visit www.magnificentmeadows.org.uk