As early summer approaches, The Millennium Bridge wildflower meadow in York is blooming with wildflowers and alive with wildlife. Eithne Phillips tells us more about this “haven for wildlife” and encourages us to all get involved in managing our meadows!
Millennium Bridge is a wildlife meadow just a stone’s throw away from the river Ouse, found on the Fulford side of the river. Previously an unmemorable expanse of amenity grassland, the site is now on its way to becoming a haven for wildlife.
There have been many organisations and funders who have supported Millennium Bridge Fields over the years, first through Buglife’s Urban Buzz Programme and then St Nicks with the project, Meadow Keepers. This was made possible thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund who supported Meadow Keepers for nearly two years. Working with fifteen grassland sites around York, we trained people in the age old skill of scything, botanical identification and monitoring of grassland habitats. Millennium Bridge Fields was one such site and after the project came to an end, the meadow gained further financial support through the council to continue the good work.
Though the site has changed hands over the years, the aims and values behind the management of Millennium Bridge Fields have remained the same; to create a green space that supports local communities- both animal and human. And we’re on our away to reaching our goals thanks to a plethora of volunteers; from a young infant identifying wildflowers with her mother all the way through to pensioners who remembered a time when scythes were a regular sight in the British countryside. These volunteers have done so much work to improve the meadow; digging up the grassy turf and sowing with a wildflower seed mix and planting wildflower plugs.
Adding to species diversity is so important in order to support a range of fauna. For example: you may not know that different bee species have varying lengths of tongue and will pick out the best suited wildflowers accordingly! We also try and plant species that will flower at different times of year; we have recently added spring flowering primroses to the meadow which will support early emerging queen bumblebees.
Last but by no means least we use Austrian scythes in our sessions to mow the meadow. Using this heritage skill we mow the meadows and remove the cuttings. If we left the cuttings (arisings) then the vegetation would breakdown and leach nitrogen back into the soil, encouraging the growth of grasses and weeds. These will out-compete wildflower species and turn the site into grassland of poor bio-diversity. Also, unlike petrol mowers, scythes produce no emissions or noise pollution making for a more environmentally friendly and peaceful work space that our volunteers can enjoy too.
There are many reasons that you should volunteer your time at Millennium Bridge Fields. These sessions can provide you with valuable practical experience to run alongside Environmental or Biology courses or they may simply be a way to get away from the computer screen and beyond the boundary of the library and enjoy the fresh air. As more and more studies show that forging a connection to nature improves mental and physical well-being, it’s a good way to manage the stresses and pressures of dreaded exams and coursework. It is also a chance to meet a range of interesting people from all walks of life on an award winning site. Excitingly, with Urban Buzz coming to an end, Buglife decided to award one site for each city with a “Buzzing Hotspot Award”. Millennium Bridge Fields was York’s winner! Finally, I couldn’t think of a better reason to get involved than the sense of pride you’ll feel seeing the plants you’ve sown flower; enjoyed by bees and passers-by alike. So, come on down and help us manage the meadows!
To learn more, check out our website below!
About the author: Eithne Philips is a Green Space volunteer, and a contributor to the Millennium Bridge Meadows Project.
Millennium Bridge Meadows is a nature site in the Fulford area of York. They have a mission to engage local community to protect and nurture our natural grasslands.
Website: www.stnicks.org.uk Telephone: 01904 411821