100 meadows across 100 historic sites over the next decade – English Heritage’s Coronation pledge

  • Sites will include Stonehenge, Charles Darwin’s house and London’s Jewel Tower
  • English Heritage is joining forces with Plantlife to deliver this natural legacy
  • Full list of 100 sites here

To celebrate the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III, English Heritage will enhance and create one hundred meadows at our castles, abbeys, prehistoric stone circles and palaces. From Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain to the Jewel Tower right in the heart of Westminster, over the next decade we will create a natural legacy at our historic sites – establishing flower-rich grasslands right across England, restoring those that have been lost, and enhancing those that already exist.

Since the 1930s and the advent of post-war modern farming practices, the UK has lost 97% of its meadows. Prior to this, much of England’s grassland – from meadows, road verges and lawns - would have been home to a much more diverse flora than we have today. Whilst the English Heritage estate is relatively unusual in not having been subject to changing agricultural policy, the grassland surrounding our historic monuments has become ‘municipalised’ over the past century; diminishing the botanical diversity enjoyed by earlier generations. There is an abundance of sites where – with the right management – meadows (both big and small) can be created and flourish. The creation and enhancement of wildflower-rich grasslands across England will not only benefit nature, but healthy grasslands are proven to tackle pollution and permanently lock away atmospheric carbon below ground. As well as the benefits to the environment, for visitors to the sites the grasslands will evoke something with which the historic occupants of those sites would have been very familiar.

Kate Mavor, English Heritage’s Chief Executive, said: “The King’s coronation is a significant moment in history and we wanted to mark it in a meaningful way, in a way that combines two of His Majesty’s passions – nature and heritage. We’re creating more natural spaces at the heart of our historic properties, ensuring that wildflowers and wildlife can flourish there once again, and helping our visitors to step back into history and experience something with which the sites’ historic occupants would have been familiar.”

“In a decade’s time, our coronation pledge will be an inspiring legacy of established, restored and new meadows at 100 of our historic sites – big and small – right across England. We hope that it will encourage local communities to get involved and help transform their local heritage sites into flower-rich meadows, which, in turn, will improve the quality and diversity of other grassland in the local area.”

We are partnering with Plantlife – Europe's largest charity dedicated to saving wild plants and fungi – on this initiative. Plantlife will support us by providing resources and expertise, skills development training and knowledge exchange opportunities as the project progresses. A key component of the initiative is to involve and engage with local communities around each of our meadow sites. Working with wildlife groups and volunteers local to each site, we will source seed from existing meadows in the area to ensure the reintroduction of viable, local species of wildflower to each site. The range and diversity of our sites, on different soils and geology, will enable this national programme to enhance a unique range of landscapes - from damp acid grasslands to dry chalk grasslands with shallow soils – thus enhancing local character and biodiversity. This will not only benefit local wildlife but also provide a more authentic historic experience for visitors.

Ian Dunn, Plantlife’s Chief Executive, said, “Plantlife is delighted to be working with English Heritage on meadow creation. This new and exciting partnership offers a lifeline to a hundred key grassland sites and their associated wildlife, and focuses on a chapter of English natural history lost and all but forgotten. Together, we look forward to a future where England’s best historic sites boast the highest quality grasslands, supporting a myriad of diverse meadow plants and wildlife. With so many of our grassland wild plant species facing severe risks, this insightful initiative is unquestionably a step in the right direction.”

Examples of our sites that will be involved in the project include:

Barnard Castle in County Durham
This 12th century fortress, with spectacular views over the Tees Gorge, has extensive lawns planted with a newly planted orchard. The castle’s gardens team has already started to establish a small meadow below the trees, this will be extended and enhanced over the coming years.

Boscobel in Shropshire
King Charles II took refuge in this picturesque hunting lodge in 1651 after Civil War defeat, famously hiding for a day in an oak tree whilst Cromwell’s soldiers searched for him below. Latterly a thriving Victorian farm The Royal Oak field has recently been replanted as oak pasture, restoring the 17th-century setting, this included over-seeding the pasture with local green hay introducing local meadow flowers which will be further enhanced.

Brodsworth Hall in South Yorkshire
Built in the 1860s for the wealthy Thellusson family, the estate, house and garden sit on Magensian Limestone which is found in only a few places in the North East of England. The decline of the estate in the 20th century led to some of the manicured Victorian lawns being managed as garden meadows. The thin, dolomitic lime-rich soil over time developed a rich and diverse flora that prospers in shallow alkaline soils. We will carry out botanical surveys to monitor the botanical diversity and assess opportunities for enhancement.

Castle Acre Priory and Castle in Norfolk
One of the largest and best-preserved monastic sites in England, the 11th century priory sits alongside the impressive earthworks of a Norman castle. A meadow will be created from an existing area of grassland on the eastern edge of the site, working with local volunteers and wildlife groups to encourage more wildflowers, insects and birds.

Down House in Kent
The home of Charles Darwin, Down House is surrounded by beautiful gardens that acted as Darwin’s ‘living laboratory’. Bordering the kitchen garden is the Great House Meadow, a 15-acre field owned by Darwin, who monitored its plant and insect activity. It was here in 1854 that he first orchestrated his children to watch for bumblebees buzzing from plant to plant and discovered that red clover depends on the bees for fertilisation. The meadows were ploughed in the 1970 and the meadow lost. Since English Heritage took over Down House we have reverted the fields to traditional hay meadow management with the hay cut in July followed by autumn and winter grazing. English Heritage gardeners are continuing to enhance the meadow, including developing the presence of orchids.

Jewel Tower in London
Built around 1365 to house King Edward III’s treasures, the Jewel Tower is one of only two buildings from the medieval Palace of Westminster to survive the fire of 1834. A lawned area, formerly part of the Palace Garden, has been scarified and overseeded with wildflower to create a brand-new native species rich meadow in the heart of London.

St Mary’s Church, Kempley, in Gloucestershire
This simple Norman church has the oldest timber roof of any building in England and some of the country’s best-preserved medieval wall paintings. It sits in a graveyard with unimproved neutral grassland which retains a locally native daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus ssp. pseudonarcissus that can be found in local woods, orchards and meadows. English Heritage will continue to support the careful management of the churchyard to encourage the increase of the daffodils and other grassland wildflowers.

Okehampton Castle in Devon
The remains of the largest castle in Devon, Okehampton was originally a Norman motte and bailey castle and subsequently converted into a sumptuous residence in the 14th century by the Earl of Devon. In addition to two existing meadows on the site, which are part of the county wildlife site, English Heritage will be restoring the castle’s motte into a meadow through a careful programme of management.

Stonehenge in Wiltshire
This world-famous monument sits on chalk down land, an unusually open landscape which may well be why it was chosen as an important site by Neolithic people. The banks of the monument are a county wildlife site, with wildflowers (including orchids) to be found in the outer grassland near the stones. A new meadow is also planned for an area outside the Visitor Centre, to welcome visitors as they arrive.

Walmer Castle in Kent
Built on the orders of King Henry VIII to defend England’s shores, Walmer Castle is a Tudor fortress turned country house. Amongst the eight acres of award-winning gardens are established meadows, with the potential to diversify them further and extend them to the current sheep field. The unique habitat of shingle beach and wet grassland attracts plants including pyramid orchids, common spotted orchids and blue scabiosa.

For a full list of the 100 sites click here.

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