The botanist has been spearheading conservation campaigns to save some of Lancashire’s most valuable wild blooms.
As Bowland Haytime Projects Officer with the Bowland AONB, (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), she is in charge of both Lancashire’s “Coronation Meadows” project and a new “Wildflowers for the Meadows” initiative.
These have seen her planting hundreds of carefully tended wild flower plug plants into meadows and small “pollinator patches” in the Forest of Bowland AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
Sarah, whose home is in Ribchester, was attracted to the projects because of their practical benefits. She said: “It was the chance to be out and actively involved in restoring habitats rather than talking about restoring habitats ... this project delivers on the ground.”
The colourful variety of native wildflowers so lovingly returned to local habitats includes native species which would have once been common ranging from ox eye daisy and melancholy thistle to meadow vetchling, tufted and bush vetch, rough hawkbit, knapweed and meadow cranesbill.
The Wildflowers project, run by the Bowland AONB and funded by the Lancashire Environmental Fund, is also providing a vital habitat for pollinating insects.
Sarah was joined by volunteers and assisted by MSc student Carol Edmundson at planting time.
Carol is studying bumblebees and said of the all-weather work: “It has been really interesting and good fun to be involved in - despite the rain!”
She added that not only was the work important for its restoration of beautiful flower rich meadows but: “It is also helping to provide nesting and feeding sites for bumble bees and other insects, without which many of our garden crops would not be pollinated.”
Sarah grew on many of the plants and contracted work out to the Offshoots not-for-profit permaculture project at Towneley in Burnley.
She said of the growing on: “It takes longer than you think. You think these will be ready to plant in three to four months but they take about 18 months to two years to grow to be big enough.”
Seed is harvested, dried and then sown in the autumn or spring. It is stored in special 15% moisture conditions and Sarah went down to Kew Gardens’ Millennium Seed Bank to learn more about seed storage.
Coronation Meadows is a nationwide project, set up by Prince Charles in 2013 after he read a report by the charity Plantlife on “Our Vanishing Flora”, as a tribute to the Queen on the 60th anniversary of her coronation.
It’s thought some 97% or flower rich meadows have been lost and Sarah takes particular pride in the fact that in Lancashire the county’s own Coronation meadow at Bell Sykes Farm, Slaidburn has provided donor seed for 25 other meadows covering nearly 100 acres. Bell Sykes has triple SSI (site of scientific interest) designation and is also designated as of international importance.
Sarah and Bell Sykes farmer Peter Blackwell met Prince Charles in September when they were invited to attend the creation of the 90th Coronation Meadow meadow in London.
Sarah has also worked on a Networks for Nectar project as part of the Bowland AONB’s Haytime initiative,
Summing up her work she said: “It’s amazing, very rewarding because you see the meadows changing and developing year on year the more effort you put in and it’s really good to get volunteers involved and we work with a lot of schoolchildren too.”
Not all soils will be suitable for wildflowers, but if you would like to create a wildflower hay meadow or wildlife patch contact Sarah on 01200 448000 or email her at [email protected]