Before the Second World War, wildflower meadows humming with insects would have been a familiar sight across lowland UK. However, in recent years over 95% of our lowland meadows have
disappeared. Without care, those meadows that are left become rank, as vigorous grasses shade out delicate wild flowers and brambles take over.
Meadow is grassland which is mown for hay in summer to provide winter fodder. Meadow is the best recorded land-use in the Doomsday Book and is frequently found to be rated as three times
the value of arable land underlining the importance attached to hay. Hay would have permitted more livestock to live, work and produce during the winter than from winter grazing alone.
Meadowland is often used as pasturage once the hay crop has been removed.
Lammas describes a particular type of land management regime The owner, traditionally the lord of the manor in which the meadow lies, divides the meadow into parcels referred to as ‘lots’ or ‘doles’. He then sells the rights to the hay crop to local farmers who are responsible for harvesting the hay in each allotment. However after the hay crop has been gathered, the meadow becomes common pasture and the livestock of certain commoners are entitled to graze the entire meadow irrespective of the hay rights.
Traditionally, the commonable rights begin on August 12th, also
known as Lammas day, and end around Candlemas at the beginning of February when once again the meadow is laid up for hay.
Lammas is a medieval English name derived from the Anglo-Saxon hlaef-mass or ‘loaf mass’ festival held on August 1st to mark the opening of the harvest. The first of the ripe cereals were
picked, baked into bread, consecrated at church and on the 12th, they were crumbled into the four corners of a barn to make it a safe repository for the grain about to arrive there. This festival
appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 912 as ‘the feast of the first fruits’.
The hay would have been cut with a scythe and allowed to lie and dry out for a short while before
being gathered up. This would have allowed time for seeds from the wild flowers among the grass to fall. When the meadow was then turned over to pasture the feet of the grazing animals would
have pushed the seeds into the soil. Our meadow is cut in the beginning of August. The cuttings are allowed to lie for the wild flower seeds to drop and then raked up so as not to enrich the soil
which would reduce the numbers of wildflowers.
Less than 15,000 hectares of unimproved neutral grassland remains in the UK – an area roughly the size of Bristol. Most sites are relatively small and fragmented, but major concentrations can be
found in places such as Worcestershire and parts of Wales.
The meadow in St George’s Park is sown with a Welsh Marches Mix collected in Herefordshire which includes fine meadow grasses and flowers including Yellow rattle, Ox-eye daisy, Common knapweed, Red clover, Meadow buttercup, Birdsfoot trefoil, Agrimony, Ribwort plantain, White clover, Common catsear, Selfheal, Eyebright, Common Spotted Orchid, Lesser stitchwort, Hop trefoil, Cowslip, Crow garlic, Sweet vernal grass, Crested dogstail , Yorkshire fog, Meadow foxtail, Common bent