Sussex wildflower paradise All posts

It is generally accepted that traditional British wildflowers are in decline and that the loss of habitat is now serious.  High Beeches Garden has some of the few remaining old, traditional wildflower meadows.  Mid to late June is the best time to see the meadows as they will then be full of beautiful native wildflowers and buzzing with insect life.

In addition, on Monday 24 June the Species Recovery Trust is joining with High Beeches Garden to showcase their wild meadows, and teach people how to identify a wide selection of the plants growing there.

Dominic Price of the Species Recovery Trust will run the Botany Workshop. Dominic is one of the UK's foremost species conservation experts with in more than fifteen years experience in the field. He formerly worked on Plantlife's species recovery programme, and has worked for conservation organisations across the world. He is an accomplished botanical tutor and makes regular appearances in the media to talk about conservation issues.

Unusually the vegetation at High Beeches Garden is on acidic soil, giving an almost unique type of acid grassland managed as meadow. This course for specialists and amateurs alike will cover roughly 50 species, concentrating on grasses, sedges and flowers. The wildflower meadows at High Beeches Garden have been called the best natural, acid, wildflower meadows in Sussex and are very beautiful.

In ancient times they were part of the ancient forest covering part of the weald. On a map of 1848 they are called ‘The Garden Meadows.’  There are more than 100 species of wild flowers in the meadows and more than 200 different species of wild plants throughout the garden. High Beeches supplies wildflower seeds for the meadow at Wakehurst Place.

The Species Recovery Trust is devoted to saving some of the UK's rarest plants and animals - species which are so endangered that there may only be a handful left in the UK. As well as this the charity is passionate about engaging people with wildlife and runs a series of courses.

Dominic Price, director of The Species Recovery Trust said 'High Beeches has a truly unique assemblage of wild plants and it's a wonderful place to people to learn wildflower identification and open up the natural world'

Arthur Hoare, County Recorder for the Botanical Society of the British Isles  has been monitoring and recording at High Beeches for years.  He says “High Beeches has an exceptionally high number of wild plant species and this is a good indicator of the age and quality of the meadow.”

The richest and most varied meadows are those which have been managed in a traditional way for decades.  The presence of Yellow rattle, Ox-eye Daisy, Devil’s-bit Scabious, Common Knapweed, Ragged Robin, Dyer’s Greenwood, Orchids and fine leaved grasses such as Quaking Grass are all signs of an old and well-established meadow.  

Among the rare wild plants at High Beeches are the Bog Pimpernel, Anagallis tenella, the Green-winged Orchid, Orchis morio, Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis and the Ivy-leaved Bellflower, Wahlienbergia hederacea.  High Beeches is also famous for being the only UK garden where the Willow Gentian, Gentiana asclepiadea is naturalised throughout the woodland glades – the Willow Gentian flowers in late August with gorgeous blue flowers and is almost one metre tall.

Acid grassland such as the meadow at High Beeches is of ancient origin and is maintained by low-intensity grazing or haymaking.  It is estimated that less than 3% of grassland is unimproved and unimproved hay-meadows such as at High Beeches is the rarest of all grassland.  No fertilisers, herbicide or pesticides are ever used.  In August Heavy Horses from the Heavy Horses Trust harrow the meadow in a traditional way.  The meadow is cut in August and the ‘hay’ is left for several days to dry out and shed seeds. We will welcome the big horses for harrowing on Sunday 18 August from 11am.

Wildflower meadows and grasslands are our most diverse yet most threatened habitats. They are rich in wildlife, landscape character, folklore and history, and have been the inspiration for many of our greatest artists, writers and composers.

  • Only 2% of the meadows and grasslands that existed in the 1930s remain
  • More than 7 million acres have been lost

The meadow and grassland fragments that remain are home to a remarkable diversity of species that depend on them. Iconic species including cowslip, early purple orchid, barn owl, skylark, brown hare, harvest mouse, greater horseshoe bat, adonis blue butterfly and short-haired bumblebee depend on healthy meadow and grassland habitat and have suffered dramatic declines.

More about High Beeches Garden

About the Author: Sarah Bray writes for High Beeches Gardens

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