Cllr Joe Porter, Cabinet Member for Climate Change & Biodiversity and District Councillor for Brown Edge & Endon at Staffordshire Moorlands District Council
Over the last months, we have all had time to reflect on the important things in life and the amazing world around us. Reconnecting with nature has been a magical experience for many of us.
In the Staffordshire Moorlands, we are very lucky to have such beautiful nature on our doorstep. During these difficult times, it couldn’t be more important to spend time connecting with nature to lift our spirits and look after our wellbeing.
However, we have sadly lost 97% of wildflower meadows across the UK since the Second World War − equal to one and a half time the size of Wales. Wildflower meadows are one of our most important habitats. Their colour and character light up our landscapes and are always a magnet for rich biodiversity. Their flora consists of native British grasses and wildflowers, of which they typically have between 15 and 40 species per square metre.
During the last month, I have spent many hours exploring the local nature reserves and green spaces near where I live. Walks with nature on a Saturday seem to have become a regular thing for me. I’ve been lucky to discover rare orchids and a diverse range of beautiful butterflies in the Churnet Valley and Manifold Valley.
By restoring our wildflower meadows we can give our bees and butterflies a fighting chance. Individuals, councils and community organisations need to work together to naturalise green spaces such as grass verges, churchyards, parks and gardens. We should all aim to plant at least one nectar-rich flower – ideally native species – in our gardens this year.
As someone who has always loved nature and gardening, I have tried to turn my garden into a haven for wildlife. I have changed a corner of my garden into a wildflower meadow, created a special wildlife border, made a half-barrel pond, planted a number of dwarf fruit trees and built some bug hotels in key parts of the garden. These are things everyone can do in their garden. If you have limited space, you can turn your balcony into a wildlife haven by planting pollinator-friendly flowers in a pot. The smallest things make a huge difference and can help struggling bees, butterflies, birds and insects.
One thing the lockdown has taught us is that to care for ourselves, we must care for nature. Enjoying our green spaces not only gives us daily exercise, but it is great for our mental health and wellbeing. A walk in a green space can lower blood pressure and improve our mood. Even the simplest of things like stopping and spending time listening to and watching a meadow being swept by the wind really helps you relax. A study by the National Trust has shown that gentle nature sounds, such as running water, the rustling of branches, and birdsong are more effective than meditation apps at inducing relaxation.
So, in the spirit of caring for ourselves and nature, let’s celebrate our wildflower meadows as places of natural beauty and vital wildlife corridors. We now have a real opportunity to protect our wildflower meadows and leave them in a better state than we inherited so let’s grasp it.
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