Trotton community wildflower meadow

We've started a community project to create a wildlife haven on an unloved piece of land in our parish! Memorial Corner, which is the triangle of uncultivated land where we used to hold our local bonfire, was looking very unkempt and completely overtaken with bracken.

I'm very interested in conservation and environmental protection and have become very concerned with the decline of habitat for our native wild species. Since WW2 Britain has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows which is a devastating statistic. Many species of bee, who pollinate 80% of our crops are on the edge of extinction, not to mention butterflies, moths and other pollinating insects which are in rapid decline.

Starting a wildflower space to provide much-needed habitat was a particular wish of my Dad, Chris Hodgson, who was the Chairman of Trotton with Chithurst Parish Council for many years. He sadly died in 2015 and in his memory, I would like to create a community space for everyone to enjoy.

Wildflower areas take a long time to mature so this is not a short term project! However, I don't think the area can look much worse than it has done for the last 5 years so hopefully every year will be an improvement!

I have received lots of advice from many different organisations and have drawn up a rough plan.

Clear the area

In May, a team of volunteers got together and dug out a large patch of bracken roots and other stubborn invaders. This was hard work and although we did really well, it showed how much work there was to do! Bracken roots can be metres deep and it's very hard to get rid of them – several suggestions, such as rolling the stems, are under consideration as this damages and weakens the plants over time. Employing a team of pigs is another popular option, as they will naturally churn the soil in search of roots. Obviously, we could spray the area, however, to kill bracken you need high strength herbicide which, when you're creating a natural habitat, is not ideal!

Seeds and Plugs

Once the area is free of invasive weeds we can start planting. Unfortunately, years of bracken mulch has fertilised the ground and wildflowers tend to prefer poor soil, so plants will have to be carefully selected. It is best to sow seed in the Autumn to allow early germination in Spring. So in the Summer we will be asking for volunteers to help mow the area to keep the weeds down. With a mixture of plugs, seeds and native bulbs we should have a good show of wildflowers by Summer 2019!

Community Use

As well as bees and butterflies, we would love local people to enjoy this space. Having no village hall and no pub in the parish, we're short of places to get together. One of the goals of this project is to create a shared interest between neighbours and to have an area where we can meet together for community events. There will be paths cut into the meadow and a memorial bench so we can all wander through our wildlife-friendly community space!