Bringing Wild Flowers Back to the North York Moors
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Bringing Wild Flowers Back to the North York Moors

The North York Moors is home to some of the most picturesque and dramatic scenery in the whole of the UK. From its heather-topped moorlands to its lush green valleys and meandering rivers, this is a landscape to savour and enjoy.

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But back in the late 1980s  local Naturalist Nan Sykes made an alarming discovery, practically all of the common wildflowers in the region had disappeared. Action was urgently needed to retain the existing few and start to replenish those that had vanished. This is the story of those local heroes who helped make this happen…

Bringing Wild Flowers back to the North York Moors

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The late Anya McCracken, Nan Sykes and Ian Carstairs supported by the late David ArnoldForster OBE and farmer Ron Foster MBE, resolved to do something about the situation to help bring back wild flowers to the North York Moors. With the help of Rona Charles, ecologist at the North York Moors National Park Authority (National Park), in 1998 the Cornfield Flowers Project (CFP) was born.

Chris Wilson, farmer and botanist, fulfilled the key voluntary role that gave the project its initial practical momentum. Crucially, around the same time Ryedale Folk Museum (RFM) joined the project, delivering an all important public face to the work.

The Plants and the process

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At the outset of the project, research in agricultural records produced a target list of the ‘weeds’ of arable fields which were known to grow in the area a hundred years ago. Locating the plants, many of which had not been seen for half-a-century or more, proved an exacting task. But the dedication of the project’s supporters achieved remarkable results.

Once rediscovered, seed was sustainably collected from the remaining wild specimens and sown in nurseries, new plants nurtured from this, and the subsequent bulked-up seed reintroduced into protected areas of arable fields that the farmers specifically managed for the conservation of the plants.

Almost 90-percent of the species on the target list have now been found, with only eleven plants remaining to be discovered. Numerous others have also been located within these arable communities that were not included originally, helping to increase our understanding of this unique habitat. Alongside the well-known and ever popular arable flowers such as Poppies, Cornflower and Corncockle are a myriad of other less familiar species.

Local Heroes

Local volunteers have been the backbone of the project since the outset, and their dedication has been instrumental in reversing the decline of these rare plants. Farmers across the region have played a vital role in making space for these species on their land and successfully providing the best possible conditions for their survival. The Farmers were joined by a core of passionate volunteers, whether individuals or organisations, who nurtured these plants, provided new sites for them to grow and kept an ever-watchful eye out for new species.

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Cornfields Flowers Project co-ordinator Tom Normandale

It’s thanks to this dedicated group of volunteers that we can now see fields full of wild flowers across the North York Moors again, helping the landscape sustain its natural habitat and allowing us to enjoy looking at it for generations to come!

Discover your own private meadow!

And taking up the mantle are some of our Gorgeous Owners, Glinys & Greg Braithwaite. With the help of passionate local farmer Chris Wilson they have planted a wild-flower meadow in the garden of their beautiful North York Moors holiday cottage Wykewood.

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Discover all of our North York Moors Cottages here and start planning your visit to come and see these beautiful flowers…

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