FARMER Kevin Wharf is sowing the seeds of success for an environmental improvement programme in Northumberland, by providing a prime local source of raw materials.
New wildflower meadows are springing up at urban locations across the county, and the seeds don’t have far to travel. They are all grown and harvested by Kevin at his farm near Thropton, in the Coquet Valley.
He has been developing his own natural meadows for more than 15 years, and he collects the seeds so that they can be harvested and dried, ready for use across the region.
Kevin’s Windyside Farm provides the wildflower seed for Northumberland’s Growing Wild Project, which involves areas of grassland being planted to grow into managed wildflower meadows.
Twelve sites have been developed so far as part of the project, which is run by the county council in partnership with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and has secured funding from the SITA Trust.
Sites with suitable soil conditions have been chosen in consultation with local communities, and then prepared and developed to ensure they thrive.
Management of the meadow areas involves cutting two or three times a year, and the planting of wildflower seeds or plug plants before the winter sets in. They are then left to develop naturally in the spring, allowing as many wildflowers as possible to grow.
Kevin said: “This aspect of the farm came out of a countryside stewardship scheme, and my own particular interest in the natural habitats that are produced by these meadows, and the pollinators that they can then sustain.
“We have developed knowledge and skills over the years, and it’s fantastic to see a variety of species such as eyebright, meadow buttercup, oxeye daisy, red clover, yellow rattle and yarrow becoming established in different locations around the county and beyond.”
Alan Thompson, the county council’s executive member responsible for neighbourhood services, said: “Grassland that is allowed to flourish can transform into a sea of wildflowers and become a haven for bees and butterflies.”
The 12 Growing Wild sites developed so far are at Choppington, Bedlington Station, Hartford Bridge, Pegswood, Bedlington, Morpeth, Ashington, Blyth and Cramlington.
They can be identified by a small sign displaying a flower and bee logo.
Next year the council and Wildlife Trust hope to create a further 10, with locations currently being considered in Amble, Berwick, Blyth, Cramlington, Hexham, Morpeth and Seaton Sluice.
Kevin’s farm has also provided seeds to projects for the Northumberland National Park and Natural England, and for large regeneration schemes in the Cheviot Hills and Scotland.
Anyone with ideas for suitable wildflower meadows in Northumberland is asked to contact Kara Jackson at the Wildlife Trust on 0191 284 6884 or firstname.lastname@example.org