Would you like to see more wildlife meadows in York? Then why not get involved in York’s Buzzing? STEPHEN LEWIS reports.
THERE'S a lovely stretch of grass running beneath York's city wall along the length of Nunnery Lane. Much of it is hidden behind the car park and the fine stone building that stands near an arch in the middle of the wall.
Go through the car park and the fringe of trees, however, and you'll find an oasis of quiet. Lush grass scrambles up the steep hill to the battlemented stone of the wall above. Even now, with the daffodils gone, it is dotted with sprays of cow parsley and some delightful clumps of bluebells.
It could be so much better than this, though, says Vicky Kindemba.
York has plenty of green spaces – swathes of grass that are regularly mown, and which are easy on the eye.
From a naturalist's point of view, however, while they may look pleasant, they are little more than 'green deserts'.
There are few of the native wild flowers – plants with magical names like ragged robin, corncockle, creeping-jenny and purple loosestrife – that used to be so common in English meadows. And because of that, there aren't many insects either - which means fewer birds and small mammals too.
Now charity Buglife wants to change that. Working with the city council, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and York Friends of the Earth, it wants to create small wildflower meadows in the middle of existing green spaces around York.
It is hoped that there could be eight such small wildflower meadows to begin with, in various green spaces around the city. One of them will be created here, somewhere along this stretch of grassland running beside the city walls at Nunnery Lane.
Another will be beside the city walls at Foss Islands Road, and others will be at West Bank Park, Glen Gardens in Heworth, the Rawcliffe Country Park, Rawcliffe Lakes, near the Millennium Bridge and at Heworth Stray.
The idea will be to let the grass in each designated wildflower area grow – cutting it only once or twice a year – and then to plant or seed the area with a variety of wildflower species.
The aim of the York's Buzzing project, as it is known, will be to transform these areas into wildflower meadows that are literally buzzing with life says Vicky, Buglife's York-based conservation delivery manager.
There are huge benefits, she says.
"Having areas filled with wildflowers and wildlife is much more enjoyable and exciting. There will be lots of flowers, and lots of insects, such as bees and hoverflies, butterflies, beetles and grasshoppers. They are something t o watch out for and enjoy. It is a real sign of spring to see bees out and buzzing around."
The meadows will also be an important way of trying to protect native species of wildflowers – as well as insects and the birds that feed on them.
It is an often-repeated statistic that since the 1940s, large-scale changes in land use have resulted in the loss of 97 per cent of flower-rich lowland grassland in the UK.
Many common wildflowers are vanishing from our countryside – and there are fewer insects and so fewer birds and small mammals as well. The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust believes one reason for the reduction in barn owl numbers is because of the loss of wildflower meadows, which provide habitats for insects and for the small mammals barn owls feed on.
The exact location of York's eight 'buzzing' wildflower meadows has yet to be agreed, but the idea is that they could ultimately be part of wildlife 'corridors' linking York's green areas, says Vicky.
"Hopefully these eight will be just the start," she says. "We want to work with the city council and other groups to make more areas in York."
There are already encouraging signs of that happening, with residents in the nunnery lane area getting together to create a separate small community space, and wildflower planting and seeding taking place at St Nicholas Fields local nature reserve.
Work on creating the initial eight York's Buzzing wildflower meadows won't really begin until next year. But Buglife is keen to hear from people and local groups who want to get involved in the project, both in helping to plan exactly where the wildflower meadows should go, and also from next year in planting and meadow management.
"We will be using lots of volunteers," Vicky says. "So we want to get together people who are interested, so that we can really get started next year."
You don't necessarily have to get involved with one of the eight main York's Buzzing wildflower meadows, either. "We would love people to do things in their own garden to support York’s Buzzing, for example they could let a bit of their garden go wild for bees and plant some wildflowers," Vicky says.
To find out more about York's Buzzing, or to get involved, call Buglife on 01733 201210, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.buglife.org.uk/campaigns-and-our-work/habitat-projects/yorks-buzzing.
For ideas on how to create wildflower areas in your own garden, visit www.buglife.org.uk/activities-for-you/wildlife-gardening
How to donate
The York's Buzzing project has already obtained £20,000 of funding to get started. But it is hoping to raise more funds, from local people and local businesses.
"We have been successful with some fundraising and the council has contributed funds, but we still need to raise more – so we do need help and support from local businesses and people," Vicky says.
To donate towards the project simply text Buzz14£3 or Buzz14£5 to 70070. There is also a donation button on Buglife's webpage, at buglife.org.uk/campaigns-and-our-work/habitat-projects/yorks-buzzing