Another Plantathon Success
A Plantathon involving 400+ wildflower meadow plants (including 150 cowslips),
1500+ snakeshead fritillary bulbs - topped off with a sprinkling of yellow rattle seeds.
How is such a feat humanly possible, you might ask?
The creation of the Carnival Meadow in the Eynsham playing fields is a resounding community success story that began two summers ago with the preparation and seeding of a redundant triangle of the playing fields with green hay from Long Mead. This site is ideal because it floods, and thus well-suited to the meadow grasses and flowers from Long Mead – one of the rare surviving Saxon floodplain wildflower meadows, which lies just upstream from the Swinford Toll Bridge. These ancient wildflower meadows are one of the most biodiverse habitats in the UK, so a precious resource to be protected.
An important part of the ecology of these floodplain meadows is the making of hay. Haymaking has two main benefits for biodiversity – firstly, it allows the seeds from the flowers and grasses to fall on the ground so they can germinate and spread, secondly, the removal of the hay ensures that the soil remains relatively nutrient poor, which is critical to the survival of the wildflowers.
New meadows are also seeded with the ‘Meadow Maker’ – yellow rattle – an annual meadow flower (all others are perennial). Yellow rattle is semi-parisitic on grasses and so it reduces their vigour. As we reported earlier, this year the Meadow had to be cut for the Funfair before the yellow rattle had set seed, so we mowed the planting strips down to expose bare earth and Nicky-the-Good Fairy scattered yellow rattle seeds after the pots had been planted out.
Meadows should be grazed with sheep or cattle after the hay is taken, but this has proved to be problematic for the Carnival Meadow: it is the site of the Funfair in early July and it is a densely-populated dog-walk haven - dogs and farm animals defintely don't get along. The second-best option is to cut the meadow a second time in the autumn and remove the arisings, but regrettably, this was not done.
In November 2021 we planted out into the Carnival Meadow hundreds of rare wildflowers that had been propagated from Long Mead seed by the NRN Plant Propagation Group (NRN PPG). This year, the NRN PPG devotedly grew and nutured through the heat, drought and hosepipe bans another 400+ plants for planting out in the Meadow. In addition, a grant from the Market Garden allowed us to purchase 1500 Fritillaria Meleagris bulbs to add to the biodiversity of this new floodplain meadow.
In our 2021 Plantathon, clumps of plants were planted ad libitum across the Meadow. We subsequently discovered that this made it almost impossible to find the plants again in order to monitor their progress. Thus, for this epic Plantathon, we devised a standard planting pattern for each site, allocating exactly 10 plants of the same species at each site and mapping the locations using GPS. This will enable the NRN PPG to monitor the progress of the new wildflowers in the Meadow and help them in their long-term study of optimal propagation regimes and to develop a comprehensive protocol that can be used by others.
On the morning of the Plantathon we mowed each site in a cardinal compass '+' orientation and laid out the plants exactly at the required distances. All was then required was planters...
Thus it came to pass that on a mild Sunday afternoon in late November, 60 enthusiastic souls of all ages, bearing spades and trowels, congregated on the playing fields with the common passion of increasing the biodiversity of the new meadow yet further. Catriona Bass gave a short introduction to the Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project and demonstrated the use of the specialist planting tools that she had designed and commissioned to be hand-forged by a traditional blacksmith through a generous grant from Eynsham Parish Councillor, Milly Chen.
Dear Reader, in the twinkling of an eye it was done, or would have been were it not that such a exciting melding of people led to many interesting and diverting conversations. Nonetheless, in just over one hour it was all done - a pat on the back to everyone!
Important Note to the Planters present:
You may have noticed Matt Mulholland, the renowed documentary film maker, filming the Plantathon for the Oxford University's ‘Heroes’ Project. In her delight and excitement at the huge turn-out Catriona missed mentioning that fact in her briefing. Apologies! If anyone would rather be incognito (or knows any participant who would rather be), please let us know. Matt says he can easily edit footage for his final cut.
As mentioned, the NRN PPG is not only propagating wildflowers, but also developing a protocol to help other communities do the same thing. If you have a moment to give us some feedback about yesterday’s Plantathon, that would be very helpful.
Here are some questions, but you may have valuable observations to add. Please reply to
Did you have fun?
What was/were the best bit/s: e.g. Doing something physical, getting fresh air, meeting new people, doing something for nature, learning something new?
Was the briefing session helpful? Too long, too short?
Did you have enough information to do the planting properly?
Would you have like more information on the landscape restoration project, or was that sufficient?
Did you read the information sheets about the individual species of wildflower? Was it useful?
We took just over an hour to plant the snakeshead fritillary bulbs and wildflower plants. The Goldilocks’ question: Was the session too long, too short, just right?
Would you have preferred a different format – e.g. a longer session with a break in the middle for connecting with others?
Should we all bring hot tea/coffee/chocolate and e.g. carrot cake?
Any further comments?