Wildflower Meadow, Pollinators and Beeline
In 2002 several volunteer gardeners created a wonderful mini meadow from brush cut seed from Muker meadows, one of the main ingredients being yellow rattle plant(rhinanthus minor),a hemi-parasite which means it steals nutrients from some of the surrounding grasses, which then grow less vigorously, and leave space for more wild flowers. Yellow Rattle is an attractive yellow flower loved by the Bees, as well as a very necessary part of a successful wild flower meadow.
The first seasonal flowers in our meadow are wild daffodils, cowslips, english bluebells, fritillary, giving way to dandelions, red clover, cranesbill, vetch, oxeye daisy, as the year moves on. It is a beautiful sight when in full flower in May, June and July.
We cut the meadow around the end of July into August or even September when we have a good spell of dry weather, as the cut grass needs to be shaken to loosen all the seeds and dried thoroughly to make good hay.
The grass is cut very short for the next few months until it stops growing over the winter -in this period of time we are lucky enough to get yellow rattle seed from local meadows and after scarifying the ground to make bare patches, we plant the seed so it makes contact with the soil, and wait for the winter frost to activate the seed.
Three of our members were given chance to go on a course to learn how to scythe the meadow, as we had previously used a power scythe which was getting more difficult to manoeuvre round the fruit trees. The course was organised by the Naturally Connected Farming and Wildlife officer, which we all found very useful helpful, and more environmentally friendly.
Over the years we have had a few problems. One of the main ones being a very successful vetch plant (vicia sepium), which started strangling the other plants, thereby stopping the other flowers coming through.
We have been fortunate to receive advice from the Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust Meadow Links officer, who helped us to get back on track that year, and to also help us create a plan for the next 6 years or so. This was back in 2016 and the advice was to cut the meadow early as the vetch started growing, collect all the cuttings and remove from the area, then allow the meadow to grow again. By doing this it allowed the other flowers to come through. In 2023 we did not cut until the end of August, once again removing the cuttings. The grass was kept very short and scarified, to allow us to plant more yellow rattle seed.
Wild flower meadows are not easy to start or maintain, but with the help of all the enthusiastic and persistent work of the volunteers we produce a very beautiful meadow, which is admired by many visitors and locals alike.
The Orchard wildflower meadow is also part of the Beeline helping bees and other pollinators to find food sources within a reasonable range, therefore increasing the food sources and habitat for pollinating insects, which in turn brings in other wildlife and joins up with the national bee-line wildlife corridor.
Well worth a visit!