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30DaysWild Day 6 - Prof Ian Truman Trustee

Posted: Tuesday 6th June 2017 by evaphillips

What do 80’s unemployment, dog poo and Bee Orchids have in common? They are all factors in the development of meadow creation in Birmingham and the Black Country. Read on…

Prof Ian Truman, Ecologist, Trustee and font of all meadow knowledge gave a fascinating presentation to members of the Countryside Management Association, The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country. Bug Life and me, a complete meadow novice, this week.

Prof Truman tells us the Dutch have been creating meadows for years, indeed he went to Holland in 1981 to learn from them – and came home even more convinced of their importance as a habitat and climate controller (taking carbon from the air). Thus began his 35 year adventure to recreate traditional meadows to help stop the decline of floral species and local pollinators.

Luckily he found a friend in a Wolverhampton Council Conservation Officer who was intrigued by the plan and found a site that was hidden away and no-one would notice a new meadow growing (As they were later to find, the downside of this was it became terribly difficult to manage properly, hidden sites are often inaccessible by farm machinery)

A donor site was found and ManPower Services (a kind of 80s Welfare to Work) provided a crew of young men who were more used to cities than fields, to manually pack hay into a van and drive it to the secret site.

Over many years and many controlled experiments Prof Truman proved that not everything written in books was true – that orchids did not need vast swathes of time to appear if green hay was collected, baled and spread quickly as it holds the seeds and mycorrhizae that help them germinate, and that seed should be collected, not bought as a mix from merchants unless you know exactly what’s in it and where it has come from.

Today Prof Ian Truman is a renowned expert in meadow creation who has worked with the Trust, and via the Nature Improvement Area and thanks to the Esmee Fairbairn Fund, has helped us create meadows over 250 sites in the region since 2012.

As our first meadows come into their 3rd year we have been amazed at the numbers of Green Winged Orchids, Bee Orchids and Cowslips that have already appeared alongside Yellow Rattle and Ox Eye Daisies.

As yet our new meadows are not being used for hay as many of them are open to the public and farmers are apparently reluctant to buy hay for fodder that may be infested with dog faeces – though badger poo that can wind up in farmed bales is apparently fine! We are still working on ideas for what should happen to our cut hay – use as biofuel is being investigated. This is a good problem to have to solve, as it shows what we’re doing is working.

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