Woodland wildflowers have declined in the last 100 years as a consequence of poor woodland management and habitat loss through built development. The creation of new ‘community forests’ enables initiatives to be run that will restore woodland wildflowers to existing woodland and new woodland sites.
Most of the new planting sites in Community Forests are on existing arable agricultural land, improved grasslands or on reclaimed former industrial sites. Frequently these lack a local seed source resulting in the need for intervention in the form of seed collection, germination, growing on of young plants and subsequent planting.
The Woodland Wildflower Project is ajoint initiative of ‘LandLife’ and England’s Community Forests with the participation of the Local Heritage Initiative and charitable trusts.
Fig. 4. School children collecting wildflower seeds
Objectives. Collection of viable wildflower seed from old woodland sites. Involvement of local community groups and school children in the collection of the seeds. Sending viable wildflower seed to the ‘LandLife’ nursery in North West England for germination and growing on. Planting of young wildflower plants on new woodland sites. Local publicity for the project and increased awareness of woodland wildflowers.
Key Stakeholders. Local authorities, The Tees Forest, Great North Forest, Land life (Conservation charity), Local Fleritage Initiative, National Community Forest partnership, Countryside Agency. Resources. Finance from the Great North Forest and The Tees Forest, Local Heritage Initiative, Charitable Trusts. Staff resources from The Tees Forest and the Great North Forest. School children and community groups collecting seeds.
Actions undertaken. Seed collection events, growing on of seeds into young plants for transplanting, seed sales, work in schools by community liaison officers, local media coverage, ‘totem’ species used for marketing e. g. Silene dioca in The Tees Forest.
Number of people involved. 2,000.
Outcomes. Tree focused organisations focus on a broader conservation issue, increased public understanding of woodland wildflowers and the reasons behind their decline, relatively poor media response, biodiversity gains localised.
Evaluation. The project was complicated to run suggesting that a simpler local scheme would have achieved greater outcomes and lower cost. North East Community Forests already run a tree nursery in the region and the potential of this being diversified to include wild flower propagation is underway. The number of plants placed back into new woodlands is small and will have little impact in terms of increasing biodiversity.