With wildflower’s becoming increasingly more important and their use more versatile, we now have our own specialist on the subject at Bright Seeds. Megan Townley, our new wildflower seed development manager, speaks about her background, and why wildflowers are the seed for her…
Tell us a bit about your background?
I am from a small family farm in Hampshire, which belongs to my Grandparents. I’ve always loved spending my weekends and holidays helping out on the farm, and therefore followed a career within the farming industry – studying agriculture at Harper Adams University. After university I travelled to New Zealand where I spent five months, which was unfortunately cut short due to covid.
I’m pleased to say that I now live on our farm, which holds a small amount of arable, a livery yard and a game shoot. A lot of my spare time is spent doing odd jobs around the farm and managing the shoot. I’ve been beating all my life and took up shooting in my late teens. Although I enjoy shooting, my real passion lies with the beating side of things.
Where does your interest in wildflowers come from?
After university, I knew I would like to work within the agricultural supply chain industry and a role within another wildflower enterprise took my interest. From there my passion for wildflowers grew.
We have wildflower meadows on the farm back home and I love seeing all the benefits to wildlife they bring. I’m so happy for this new role at Bright Seeds and grateful to be in a position where it is possible to aid more landowners, developers and landscapers in introducing wildflowers to open spaces. A real opportunity to spread the word and help more people enjoy these beautiful and beneficial flowers… what more can you ask for!
You mentioned running a shoot, can you tell us a little about it?
We have a small family syndicate shoot, which I’m pleased to say has run for nearly 30 years. And, since moving up to the farmhouse in 2021, I have taken control of the gamekeeping.
With only 800 birds put down it is far from a commercial shoot. However, I love starting my day checking on the birds and seeing all the hard work paying off come the shooting season. During the shoot day I run the beaters and occasionally shoot for a drive or two. Outside of this I also enjoy going beating at friends’ more commercial shoots.
What role do you see for wildflowers within on shoots?
I do see wildflower playing an increasingly important role within the shooting community. At our shoot, we have two fields that have been established meadows for eight years now, and I have incorporated these into our main drive.
It is excellent cover to the birds, and they utilise it as if it is normal game cover. Instead of cutting the meadow back at the end of the flowering season, September/October, we leave them standing for the winter period until the season is finished in the Spring.
These fields were previously for grazing next to the woodland on this drive, and therefore not in an easy location to put game cover in. Now with the full fields converted into a meadow we have been able to expand this drive to incorporate the wildflowers and have seen improved number of birds from it ever since.
Where do you see the future of the wildflower side of the business growing?
The next step in wildflowers is the introduction of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), the legislated initiative launching in November 2023. This requires developers to demonstrate an active minimum 10% biodiversity gain to be maintained over a 30-year period. This must be met to gain approval for planning permission on development sites.
Wildflowers are an excellent resource in achieving the creation or enhancement of biodiversity for grassland habitats. The important factors to remember when considering the installation of a meadow is the source of seed. With the benefits of wildflowers becoming more popular, the potential for non-native seeds being introduced into our environment is higher.
My advice is to always ask the question of provenance!
What are your favourite wildflower species and why?
That’s a tough question! It’s difficult to have any one preferred wildflower. Though a particular favourite of mine is Vipers Bugloss. For some it is not the most conventional for aesthetic purposes, but the wildlife love it.
There is no better sound than the hum of bees surrounding a strip of Vipers. And, when looking closely, the flowers are a beautiful shade of blues and purples.
How can we spread the word effectively about the benefits of wildflowers? How can we help wildflowers become more mainstream?
The best way to spread the word about the benefits of wildflowers is, in my opinion, visually. As councils are including more meadows in their green spaces, the public have increased opportunity to explore and enjoy the benefits.
Likewise, we are seeing more companies promote wildflower meadows across the country through marketing campaigns, such as offering seed packets. This is an excellent way for the public to get involved and a good way to encourage more people to include wildflowers within their garden spaces; further demonstrating the benefits to wildlife that wildflowers bring.
For more information on our wildflower selection, Biodiversity Net Gain, or how wildflowers could improve your farm, shoot or land, please call the office on 01722 744494 and speak to Megan, or email her at Megan@brightseeds.co.uk