Creation of Wildflower Meadows at Marbury Country Park

The project to create three wildflower meadows at Marbury Country Park has been developed by Alan Redley, current Chair of FoAM, with the full support of Ranger Chris Moseley from the Greenspace Team at Cheshire West and Chester Council.

FoAM has been successful in obtaining a grant of just under £10,000 through the Landfill Communities Fund of Waste Recycling Group (WRG) administered by the Environmental body WREN.  This has only been achieved through support from the local community.  In particular, generous pledges of financial support were received from Anderton with Marbury Parish Council, Brunner Mond, The Mersey Forest, Action Weaver Valley and Cheshire West and Chester Council, together with a contribution from FoAM’s own funds.  Including the grant, pledges of support and volunteer labour, the total cost of the project will be just over £12,000.

The project will vastly improve the bio-diversity of the grasslands as well as providing wonderfully colourful displays throughout the summer for the many visitors to the Park.  It will have educational value and the flowers will provide a food source for thousands of insects, butterflies and moths and an invaluable nectar source for the struggling bee population.  This in turn will have benefits for many bird and bat species on the site.  The project will also be used by FoAM and the Rangers as a training resource for the identification of wildflowers and gives potential for community involvement in future seed gathering events to harvest seed for future planting.

The first stage of the project was completed during summer 2009, with the planting of 3,500 wildflower pot plants in the area between the Lime Avenues at Marbury.

On one of the planting days, volunteers from Brunner Mond joined the regular volunteers to lend a helping hand.

The remaining two areas were ploughed ready for seeding using the innovative technique of top soil inversion developed by Landlife, National Wildflower Centre, who are specialists and acknowledged leaders in wildflower meadow creation.  The soil was ploughed up to 1 metre deep to bury the existing weed seed bank.  This exposed low fertility top soil to provide ideal conditions for wildflowers, free of vigorous weed competition.

A wet spell followed, which delayed the work to prepare the soil for the seed to be sown. We then had sub-zero temperatures and the ground froze hard!

By 17th March, weather conditions had improved sufficiently to enable the ground to be harrowed to prepare the surface for the seed to be sown.  Landlife had arranged for a local farmer to send a tractor early in the morning and the former horse jump field was quickly dealt with.  The tractor then moved to the field by the scrape to prepare that area.  We soon got a call for help as the tractor had become stuck in the middle of the field.  Ranger Chris Moseley tried to use the Marbury tractor to pull the other out but it quickly became clear that it was not big enough for the job in hand and Chris retreated before he became stuck!   Re-inforcements were called for and a second tractor made it’s way to Marbury to help.

This second tractor became stuck trying to pull out the first!

A third tractor, with caterpillar tracks, was then called.  When it arrived later in the afternoon, it made light work of retrieving the other two tractors and the preparation work was completed successfully.

Meanwhile, volunteers cleared stones from the horse jump field and after a few ‘dry runs’ to perfect technique, sowed the seed by hand.  The following day, volunteers were out again and sowed the field next to the scrape to complete all the work on the project.

In August 2010, Chris Moseley and Alan Redley were joined by John McClean from Brunner Mond, Helen Collins from the Mersey Forest and Richard Smith from WREN to mark completion of the £12,000 project.  Richard Smith said “From our perspective projects run by volunteers have so much more value to us as funders – using contractors would have been so expensive.  We’ve probably done a dozen or so wildflower meadows in other places, but these are by far the best”.

Wildflowers at Marbury

Visitors are already enjoying  the wildflowers, which have received universal praise and have been described as “the best thing to have happened at Marbury for many years”.  We hope the displays will be even better in future years!

Leave a Reply