As the world bursts into bloom you might be forgiven for thinking that all is well with our wild flowers, but in our ancient meadows and pastures and along our road verges this is often not the case. Although woodland flowers currently dominate the scene later the focus is on grasslands, and there lie many problems.
Agricultural 'improvement', reseeding with a single grass species, and using silage rather than hay for winter fodder, have all helped to sound the death knell for the flowery fields of yesterday. This dramatic decline is highlighted in a briefing from the Wildlife Trusts entitled 'Save Our Vanishing Grasslands '. This also emphasises the importance of wildflower meadows for bees and other pollinators, butterflies, birds, flood prevention, pollution control, soil conservation and carbon storage.
Wildlife Trusts' England Director Stephen Trotter, says: "Wildlife-rich grasslands have been in trouble for decades, but our newly collated information shows that the remaining hay meadows and flower-rich pastures are still at risk. We're seeing an insidious yet catastrophic decline. The pressures are enormous: from development and changes in agricultural practices, to neglect."
The ancient meadows of the West Midlands have not escaped. For example in Worcestershire, a county renowned for its classic traditional lowland hay meadows, it is estimated that a quarter of the best 200 sites have been lost or damaged since 2005. And bear in mind that by 2005 there had been enormous losses in the previous eighty or so years.
The Wildlife Trusts and others are doing what they can. They are, for example, taking some ancient meadows into their care and using hay from them to spread on other sites to restore their beauty and value. Even in the heart of the Black Country work is going on on the Rowley Hills to protect and restore the grassland there.
These activities need to be backed up with the right policies and incentives for land owners and farmers. The Trusts are asking the Government to improve existing laws and policies, give legal protection to, and fully reward farmers for managing, the best grasslands, and restore more wildlife-and flower-rich grasslands.
You can help , the Wildlife Trusts will launch an e-petition aimed at Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, from Thursday 3rd April for five weeks: see wildlifetrusts.org