The Grasslands Trust announces closure

by Lisa Ommanney

© Natural England/Peter Wakely

Britain’s only charity dedicated to saving wildflower-rich grasslands has closed due to a funding shortage.

The Grasslands Trust, founded in 2002 to help preserve one of the country’s most threatened habitats, announced this week that it had been forced into liquidation due to a lack of funding for both day-to-day operations and individual projects.

In a statement on its website, chairman Jon Valters said: “Despite a concerted effort by staff to generate emergency funds and cut costs, The Grasslands Trust is unable to continue trading lawfully.”

The charity’s closure has sparked fears for the future of the UK’s meadows and pastures. On Twitter, Jim Dixon, Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority said: “This is sad news, such an important organisation,” and naturalist Rob Yarham commented: “We all need to stand up for our grasslands now.”

Grasslands are the richest habitats for wildlife in England but intensive agriculture, neglect and development have meant that huge swathes of these pastures and meadows have disappeared. Lowland meadows alone have declined by 97% in the last 75 years.

The Grasslands Trust succeeded in saving more than 250 hectares of this vital habitat and had begun work to restore a further 80 hectares across the north east of England. It also lobbied for greater protections for grasslands, advised widely on meadow management and encouraged the public to visit, enjoy and create local grasslands.

A failed bid to buy Bury Farm in Herefordshire where the charity was planning to restore a further 76 hectares of rare and ancient grassland was highlighted as a contributing factor in the closure.

Ironically, the Trust’s funding issues come at a time when wildflowers and meadow-like planting have seen a huge surge in popularity. They were a noted theme at this summer’s flower shows and a hugely successful part of the Olympic Park planting while the well-publicised plightof bees, butterflies and other insects has increased public understanding of the importance of wildflower habitats.

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