Ousel’s Nest Quarry: Flower Power

Meadow Management, Sunday, 4th September 2022

Ousel’s Nest Quarry Local Nature Reserve, Turton, is a site we have been working at since 2014. The site, which is managed jointly by BCV and The Wildlife Trust, has hedges, trees, ponds and the largest wildflower meadows we have ever worked on, today we are working on one of those meadows.

Species-rich meadows and grasslands have declined by 7.5 million acres (3.03 million hectares) since the 1930’s, only 2% of the meadows that existed at that time exist today and of those 75% are small, fragmented areas. The decline began during World War 2 when 6 million acres were ploughed under to provide food for Britain’s beleaguered population, but after the war that destruction continued as the requirement for housing and industrial development grew. Today these developments still encroach on greenbelt land; only 1% of land in the UK now support species-rich grassland.

Meadows are the cornerstone of our green and pleasant land, an intrinsic part of the UK’s natural and cultural heritage. Meadows provide habitat for wildflowers, bees, butterflies, moths, and many other insects, also spiders, small mammals, birds, reptiles and bats. Meadows can also act as carbon sinks and flood defences.

Common Frog
Common Frog

Wildflower grasslands do have some protection, mostly if they have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest or as a Local Nature Reserve, but many won’t have this level of protection or are not properly managed leaving them at risk of being lost.

While Bolton’s meadows don’t have the range of species as chalk grasslands there’s still plenty we can do to improve what we have. Today we were mowing the grass, now that the flowers have died off, and removing it to the edges of the site. Raking up the mown grass stops the build up of nutrient in the soil, wildflowers thrive in a low nutrient environment while grasses prefer more fertile soils. Mowing also helps to distribute seeds; at the moment the meadows have knapweed, scabious, at least one type of orchid, and yellow rattle to name a few, but we hope to improve this over time. Thanks to all involved and also to the Wildlife Trust collaborating with us on this project.

Other Posts about meadows can be found in the Meadows category.