By the end of the year, 216kg of wildflower and grass seed harvested from nearby Salisbury Plain will have been sown on grassland surrounding Stonehenge. In some areas a team of half a dozen National Trust volunteers will plant the seeds by hand. Four tonnes of seed has been sown since the project started 16 years ago.
Keith Steggall, National Trust Area Ranger for the Stonehenge Landscape, said: “The locally sourced seeds will help to restore the chalk grassland landscape our ancestors would have known at the time of Stonehenge. In recent years the land was farmed to grow crops, with the soil drying out and the topsoil was being blown away in the winds. But by harvesting and sowing the seeds and working with our tenant farmers to manage the land through grazing, we are succeeding in both protecting the historic monuments and bringing back the grassland landscape.”
Rob Turner of Manor Farm has worked with the National Trust since 2003 to revert land around Stonehenge from arable fields to grassland, which is grazed by 500 Hereford-cross cattle. A third-generation Wiltshire farmer, Mr Turner said: “It was clear that the land around Stonehenge needed something a bit different. Since the project started it's been a steep learning curve. In farming nothing is an overnight success, but what we've achieved for the farm and for nature has been good. It's a bleak spot, but you now see quite a variety of flowers and birds.”
Sonia Heywood, one of the National Trust volunteers taking part in the seed sowing, said: “I've been volunteering with the Trust for 11 years and thanks to the grassland project I've seen more and more grassland plants and wildlife returning every year. I love being a volunteer in the Stonehenge Landscape because it's such an interesting and dramatic place. It's such a pleasure to see the first Hare of the year and I'll never forget the first time I saw an Adonis Blue butterfly; it was such a bright blue! We're very lucky and I plan to keep volunteering until I physically can't do it anymore.”
Mr Steggall continued: “The chalk grassland landscape took thousands of years to develop and so it will take decades for it to return to how it once looked. We will continue to graze the land and bring in more seeds. We've managed to attract many species of insects, birds and mammals including key species such as the Marbled White Butterfly, Brown Hare and birds such as the Skylark and Meadow Pipit and things are only going to improve over time.”