There has been a 97% decline in wildflower meadows in the UK since 1930s. These grasslands, bursting with colour and the hum of insects, were once at the heart of the landscape but changing farming practices mean they are now a rare site, with just 1% of the UK covered in traditional meadows and grasslands. Wildlife-rich grasslands are biodiversity hotspots which can contain over 150 species of flowers and grasses and support a myriad of insects from bees and beetles to grasshoppers and butterflies. Insects like these are at the centre of the food web for larger wildlife; birds, bats, frogs, lizards and small mammals all depend on them. Insects are equally important for us humans: pollinating our crops, controlling pests, keeping the soil healthy and recycling waste. Unfortunately, insects are also under threat, with three quarters of the global insect population thought to have been lost over the past 50 years.
In Weymouth’s parks and gardens, wildflower areas have been created to try and help the situation. Even these small-scale wildflower habitats can support a vast array of species and they are currently blooming. A new area of wildflowers sown on the banks at Greenhill Gardens is now a sea of yellow corn marigolds, white chamomile and blue cornflowers.
At Lodmoor Country Park, the wildflower area sown by the Friends of Lodmoor Country Park in 2016 is now a jungle of campions, knapweed and oxeye daisies – and if you look closely, you can find iridescent green thick-legged flower beetles and hidden ladybirds amongst the throngs of bees.
The playing fields at Radipole Park Gardens also host a wildflower area next to the orchard. This was expanded this year after being sown with local wildflower seed and is now a riot of colours and insects. An expansive grass area adjoining this has been left uncut to provide an extra biodiversity boost. This longer grass thrums with chirping crickets and is habitat for swarms of meadow brown butterflies.
Councillor David Harris, Chair of Climate and Ecological Emergency group said: “By increasing wildflower areas within our parks and gardens, Weymouth Town Council will continue to try and play its part to halt biodiversity decline and make our town more welcoming for wildlife.”