Wildflower Meadow Making at Platt Hall

Meadow makers by Mary Collins

What’s going on here then?

Before the park was opened in 1910, Platt Fields was an agricultural estate centred around Platt Hall. The fields were managed to produce hay for feeding animals.

When it became a public park the fields became giant lawns, for playing games, sport, and leisure. This was a good use for the fields back when most of South Manchester was still mainly a rural area with farmed fields, hedgerows and meadows with meandering gentle brooks.

But now the situation is vastly different, the area is densely residential with busy high streets, multi storey commercial buildings and cut through with congested roads. The meadow flowered areas of Fallowfield are now gone, bringing a collapse in biodiversity, and nationally the situation isn’t better with wildflower meadows in sharp decline. Wildflower meadows need sun, “poor soil”, and management.

We cut back the meadow once a year at the end of summer. The grass cuttings are removed to mimic the results of animal grazing or the hay harvest, which reduces the fertility of the soil to a nutrient balance that no longer favours the grasses of mechanically managed playing fields. Now the strong grasses can’t dominate and space is left for the wildflowers to creep in.

Haymaking at Platt Fields, 1907.
Copyright Rusholme Archive

Many wildflower seeds will be waiting dormant in the soil. Left-overs from the time when the fields were hay meadows before 1910. Given the proper treatment, and with a bit of luck, we will create the space for these flowers to appear again.

It’s also better for the climate. All those mowers whizzing around every two or three weeks are now only needed once a year. And although the “quality” of the soil decreases, the diversity of flowers and insects will increase.

It might take one year, two years, or fifty years. But every year is an improvement.

Native Meadow Wildflowers