The ribbon of land separating Ladies Mile from the houses forms the western edge of Knutsford Heath. The Tabley Road end is wooded, and the rest is an open grass verge.
Last year, we began making the verge a wildflower meadow. It was a neighbour-led initiative, adopted into Knutsford Town Council’s Nature Action Plan and supported by Cheshire Wildlife Trust. In September 2022, we took the first step by sowing the verge with wildflower seeds. This summer, the neighbours continued the work by planting wildflowers generously donated by the Tatton Flower Show.
Results so far…
We left the grass to grow long and watched the flowers appear, including Yellow-rattle, Cuckoo-flower, Eye-bright and Buttercup. Then, in July, the Tatton Flower Show plants added Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Knapweed, Oxeye Daisy, Viper’s-bugloss, White Campion and Yarrow.
Wildflowers in the Ladies Mile verge.
All these plants are locally native. They may not have spectacular blooms, but benefit local wildlife, especially insects. The flowers sustain pollinators such as bees and butterflies, while the tall vegetation provides a sanctuary for insects such as grasshoppers.
The purpose behind creating such wildflower sites is to address the current biodiversity crisis. In recent decades, Cheshire has lost 99% of its wildflower meadows, exacerbating a precipitous decline in insect populations. This decline is particularly concerning as insects provide essential eco-services, such as pollination, as well as food for other animals. We should gauge the success of the wildflower meadow not merely by its aesthetic appeal but by its capacity to support a thriving insect community.
What happens next?
The wildflower meadow will not be left to go completely wild. It will be cut once a year after the flowers have cast their seeds. It will also be ‘weeded’ throughout the year to remove the thuggish plants that can be over-dominant, such as dock, nettle and bramble. With this treatment over several years, we can expect the desirable wildflowers to increase and fill the meadow. It will become colourful and buzzing with life.
Knutsford Nature Action Plan
The Ladies Mile wildflower meadow is one of five created across Knutsford, driven by the Town Council’s Nature Action Plan. The first, Barncroft, was sown in 2020, followed by Crosstown Community Orchard and Steeplefield in 2021, and Ladies Mile and Sparrow Lane in 2022. More will be created in the future to form a matrix across the town.
The Nature Action Plan has also created ornamental wildflower beds. These have been sown in various locations, including outside the library and the fire station. They provide eye-catching displays while supporting pollinating insects with typical cornfield annuals such as Chamomile, Cornflower, Marigold and Poppy. For best effect, these beds must be prepared and sown each year, making them ideal for small, prominent spaces.
Ornamental beds are different but complementary to meadows such as the Ladies Mile verge. While the ornamental beds require yearly re-sowing, the meadows should be self-sustaining, only requiring weeding once established.