A meadow in every county to mark 60 years since The Queen’s Coronation

Barrie Wilkinson

At the end of 2012, HRH The Prince of Wales suggested a remarkable nationwide project – a meadow in every county across the UK to mark the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation

The first stage of Coronation Meadows will launch at Highgrove House, The Prince’s home in Gloucestershire, today - Wednesday 5 June - with the announcement of the first 60 flagship meadows. Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust's Red Hill nature reserve will be announced as Lincolnshire's Coronation Meadow.

Coronation Meadows are outstanding examples of flower-rich grasslands, surviving fragments that support our wildlife and which are often the result of years of careful management by generations of one family. Many have an annual hay cut and are grazed by hardy, native breeds of livestock. Coronation Meadows reflect the local character of the landscape; Martins’ Meadow in Suffolk has green-winged orchids and meadow saffron, whilst Cae Blaen-dyffryn in Carmarthenshire has whorled caraway and thousands of lesser butterfly-orchids.

The sixtieth anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation; what better excuse for a concerted effort to begin the creation of at least one meadow in each county?
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales

Over 80% of the 60 meadows identified can trace an undisturbed history beyond the Coronation; many are truly ancient, dating back hundreds of years. The oldest so far is Loughborough Big Meadow in Leicestershire which can be traced back to 1762. They range in size from Therfield Heath in Hertfordshire at over 400 acres (and home to the largest population of pasque flowers in Britain) to Hayton Meadow in Shropshire at just three quarters of an acre.

They are also home to quite astonishing displays of wild flowers – orchids, cowslips, buttercups and oxeye daisies in their thousands. The Prince’s famous wild flower meadow at Highgrove House has a special place in the project and has been named as The Royal Meadow, in addition to the 107 across the country.

My Coronation Meadows idea came to me when I read Plantlife’s 2012 report and fully appreciated just how many wildflower meadows had been lost over the past 60 years.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales

Coronation Meadows has three aims

  1. The first, the identification of a Coronation Meadow in each county, will be completed by the end of the Coronation year as Coronation Meadows for the remaining counties are identified – there are candidates for nearly all of them and there will be 107 in total.
  2. The second stage is to identify sites within each county where green hay and seed from the Coronation Meadow can be used to restore or recreate new meadows, so fulfilling HRH’s original vision.
  3. The final part of the project is perhaps the most ambitious – to map the UK’s remaining meadows. No such inventory currently exists (neither government nor conservation organisation has this information) but, with the help of the public, we hope to identify all the small pockets of flower-rich meadows that remain.
Red Hill Coronation Meadow

© Barrie Wilkinson - Red Hill Coronation Meadow

Victoria Chester, Chief Executive of Plantlife explains - 'His Royal Highness has given us a challenge; to conserve species and yet to maintain their essential wildness. In an age where we too often turn to the quick-fix of commercial ‘nectar mixes’, Coronation Meadows is both a celebration and a pledge to our children and grandchildren, using the floral riches of the past to create meadow gems for the future. Restoring meadows is painstaking, long-term stuff – it is about our landscape history and our cultural heritage. Many of the meadows have local significance. For example, Welsh farms often had a Cae Ysbyty or “Hospital Field”, a flower-rich pasture where sick animals would recover from illness or injury faster than on conventional pasture. This project is so resonant because it reminds us just how spectacular and wildlife-rich our countryside can look – and the results can be simply breathtaking.'

Few people of my generation have ever experienced the beauty of a flower-rich meadow in full bloom. 97% of these meadows have been lost in the last century. But we are determined to ensure the next generation does have that chance.
Stephanie Hilborne OBE
Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts

Rob Havard, Managing Director of Rare Breeds Survival Trust tells us - ‘His Royal Highness, our Patron, is a passionate supporter of rare native breeds of livestock and there is a close relationship between our native breeds and wild flower meadows. The ancient meadows of this country were traditionally managed in order to produce feed for livestock to carry them over the course of a long winter. Over generations, this livestock evolved traits that suited the different climates, topography, minerals and flora found in the varied landscapes across the United Kingdom. These traits developed further with selective breeding into the wide variety of breeds that we see today. In a sense the meadows shaped the animals, as the animals shaped the meadows, and their shared history is part of our valuable rural culture.'