Disappearing meadows

I live what could be described as a dual existence, spending days as Get it Sorted’s director of photography and nights (well actually other days) as a nature photographer. The two sides have obvious parallel values and aims in reducing our impact, conserving and repairing what remains.

While I indulge in the occasional foray abroad to work on stories I spend the vast majority of my time working on long term projects in the UK.

One such example is the plight of our meadows. For over two years I have been photographing Clattinger farm, a local meadow and probably the finest lowland meadow in the UK, in an effort to raise awareness of a hugely threatened and important habitat.

Changes in farming, turning from seasonal grazing and hay cutting to intensive ploughing and crops, have led to a loss of 98% of the UK’s meadows since WWII. From 1990-2003 the EU lost 12.8% of its remaining grasslands.

Why is this important? Well the specialised conditions these meadows provide can support more than 80 plant species to a square meter with Clattinger Farm totaling more than 180 species in all. Thousands of orchids and snakeshead fritillaries are just a small part of the kaleidoscopic mix of flowers that constitute these fields. These in turn support many specialised insects (51% of Europe's butterflies rely on grasslands), birds and mammals. These floodplains also act as a valuable water store, reducing the chances of flooding in residential areas.

This small remaining fragment is owned and cared for by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Despite a near total loss they are providing some hope, seeding Blakehill farm, a 240 hectare ex-RAF airfield, with plants collected from Clattinger Farm. With forward thinking in this manner we can help to restore a little of what we have lost. However, further funding and subsidies are needed if we want our farmers to have the ability to farm in an ecologicaly responsible fashion and create the biological networks that will stop inbreeding, create biological spread and break away from the classic biological islands of nature reserves.