Glorious Cotswold Grasslands: April 5-24, 2022
- Credit: Ruby Pritchett
A youth art competition and exhibition are among ways in which the Glorious Cotswold Grasslands project is growing interest in our wildflower meadows
Visitors to Nature in Art Museum and Art Gallery at Twigworth, near Gloucester can enjoy an inspiring new exhibition of artworks by young people this month (April 5-24). Following a recent competition, the display showcases creative responses to our Glorious Cotswold Grasslands project, with lively works featuring meadow and wildflower scenes across a range of media and styles.
A quick re-cap. Our Glorious Cotswold Grasslands project works to reverse the decline in wildflower-rich limestone grassland – in the 1930s, 40% of the Cotswolds was covered by such meadows supporting a vast variety of wildlife, insects, butterflies, bees, bats and birds. Today, less than 1.5% remains: a consequence of agricultural intensification and changing land management practices.
Over the last three years the project has collected and sown wildflower seeds, and offered advice on land management across the Cotswolds, resulting in the restoration of more than 200 hectares of limestone grassland – double its original target.
‘It’s been fantastic,’ says Programme Officer Anna Field. ‘We’ve had a huge range of people wanting to be involved: farmers, estate owners, private individuals, nature reserves, community groups, parish councils, schools, and even Cheltenham Crematorium.’
Volunteers, too, have given enthusiastic support, whether getting stuck in to help reduce scrub at selected sites in autumn and winter, or giving a hand with seed harvesting and botanical surveys in summer.
‘We’ve been delighted with the success of our restoration sites so far, with some fairly uninteresting fields becoming carpeted in yellow rattle, and meadow species including kidney vetch, bird’s foot-trefoil and orchids all appearing’ Anna says. ‘The village green and verges at Windrush, which we left uncut and seeded, have been a particular success story, with cowslips, sainfoin, ox-eye daisy, wild marjoram, lady’s bedstraw and bee orchids all coming up.’
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The huge success of the endeavour combined with a new partnership with Severn Trent Water and several other potential funding streams has now enabled the Cotswolds National Landscape (CNL) to move the project onto a permanent footing to create and restore even more wildflower-rich meadows across the area.
Back to the art competition! ‘While a huge part of our Glorious Cotswold Grasslands project is about carrying out practical restoration, another important element is to engage with the public and in particular with schoolchildren,’ Anna says. ‘When people talk about biodiversity loss and how to halt or reverse it, they often think about planting trees, but wildflower meadows are also a fantastic way of increasing biodiversity and storing carbon. We launched the art competition to engage young people in learning more about wildflower grasslands and our project.’
Entries were invited for two age categories, 11-15 years and 16-19 years, explains Art Co-ordinator Katherine Glynne-Jones, who organised the competition and has arranged the exhibition of some 30 pieces with Nature in Art. ‘We received some really amazing artworks from painting to digital, and there are such thoughtful pieces: one for example reveals creatures hidden in grass to highlight how much wildlife thrives there, while a collage of wildflowers in a concrete jungle shows how vibrant natural places are being hemmed in by towns or built over. Some pieces include words about caring, protecting and “Bee [sic] kind to our grasslands”. They show how in-touch kids are with what’s going on with the climate emergency.’
The panel of judges for the competition comprised Anna from the Glorious Cotswold Grasslands project, CNL Vice Chairman and board member Rebecca Charley, artist and illustrator Hatty Staniforth, and character designer, model maker, sculptor and stop motion animator Jim Parkyn (of Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit renown). After much discussion they declared 15-year-old Ruby Pritchett the overall winner, impressed by the uplifting spirit of her artwork and its inclusion of wildflowers such as wild carrot and oxeye daisies, while its depiction of seed pods and seed dispersal gave a great nod to the seed collecting work carried out by Anna and her colleagues. Jim added:
‘Ruby has captured grasslands in a rather 1950s print style that I like very much. Her use of blank space and shape is very appealing.’
Close runner-up was Ellie Rowlands (15), who caught the judges’ eyes with her colour use, composition and mix of wildflowers in her painting.
Daniel Vollborth (17) was winner of the 16-19 age category with a superb digital piece featuring a bee and flowers buffeted on a grassy verge by the whoosh of a passing vehicle. Daisy Davis (13) won the 11-15 age group with her painstakingly beautiful painting of daisies, poppies and grasses.
As well as featuring in the exhibition, the winners will join Jim in a workshop at Nature in Art on 9 April to create a permanent artwork together. Further events and activities are planned around the exhibition, including the sowing of a celebratory wildflower meadow at the site – see the Nature in Art website for up-to-date details.
In a final (for the moment!) piece of news, Anna and Katherine are pleased to announce a new art pack for primary school age children to encourage them to enjoy and learn about wildflower meadows. Available as a free download from the Cotswolds National Landscape website, it is full of fun, inspiring activities like making artworks, how to create a mini meadow, flower pressing and wildflower bingo to get kids out and about spotting flora. Lots to grow interest in our wildflower meadows!
FIND OUT MORE
Glorious Cotswold Grasslands exhibition, April 5-24, is at Nature in Art Museum and Art Gallery, Twigworth, near Gloucester www.natureinart.org.uk
An online exhibition can be viewed at gloriouscotswoldgrasslandsart.com
Download the new free Glorious Cotswold Grasslands art pack for children from the Glorious Cotswold Grasslands page at cotswoldsaonb.org.uk
Want to get involved in the Glorious Cotswold Grasslands project? Visit the website for info and contacts for:
- upcoming workshops, equine to wildflower ID
- volunteering to help with spring / summer botanical surveys, training given!
- wildflower / art sessions available to schools
- advice on wildflower-rich grassland for land managers
Visit the Glorious Cotswold Grasslands page at cotswoldsaonb.org.uk