Improving the wild flower grassland at Stonehenge

DISTINCTIVE patches of brown grass at Stonehenge stand out among the green fields but these areas will soon be richer in wild flowers, thanks to the addition of seeds collected from Salisbury Plain.

It is more than 15 years since the start of one of Europe’s largest grassland restoration projects in the Stonehenge landscape. National Trust’s tenant farmers are continuing to improve the quality of the land and diversity of the wild flowers.

The fields chosen have been cut or grazed very short, and then ‘tine harrowed’ to rake off the dead and dried vegetation. The work opens up spaces between existing flowers and grasses and allows the seed to reach the soil to germinate.

The National Trust cares for more than 800 hectares of land at Stonehenge, of which 242 hectares were included in the grassland reversion project, taking it out from under the plough and beginning the process of creating flower rich chalk grassland.

The seed mix used brought back species such as cowslip, yellow rattle, pyramidal orchid, bird’s foot trefoil fairy flax and in some fields abundant sainfoin which turns the fields pink when in flower. This provides important food plants and nectar sources for insects including bees and butterflies such as the meadow brown and marbled white – and a profusion of skylarks

Now work is continuing to bring in more grassland areas and new plant species and create conditions suitable for a wider range of species, including some of our less common butterflies such as the Adonis blue and marsh fritillary.