Traditional meadow skills: Rachel Remnant’s Story
Nature conservation worker Rachel Remnant travelled to Romania in 2016 to investigate traditional meadow conservation skills. She has since helped to engage people in her local rural communities in preserving the UK’s wildlife-rich meadows. Rachel’s Fellowship was supported by The Frank Jackson Foundation.
The UK’s meadows are seeing a resurgence. Although the few remaining fragments of wildlife-rich meadows are still in danger of being lost, they are at last being recognised as the seed to regrow a wildlife-friendly landscape.
Through her work as a Nature Reserves Officer for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Rachel has come to understand that public engagement and support is essential if the meadow revival is to be a success. For her Churchill Fellowship, she spent four weeks staying with farming families in Romania, via Fundația ADEPT and the Pogány-Havas Association. She learned traditional meadow skills, such as making hay by hand, making cheese and rearing livestock, to see how this connects communities to the land and wildlife.
Below: Rachel learns some meadow skills in Romania
The huge scale of the ecologically functioning landscapes in Romania showed Rachel what has been lost from the UK, both in terms of biodiversity and a way of life. It made her realise what is possible, if farming practices could work in harmony with nature and local people.
Rachel’s Fellowship has given her more confidence to speak up for meadows and share skills with fellow farmers and land managers. She has organised hands-on events for volunteers and local residents in Hampshire, such as wildflower hunts and hay gathering.
“Nature shouldn’t just be for leisure, which is placing negative pressures on sensitive UK habitats. Giving people the opportunity to help with farming practice helps communities to be inspired by and shape the future of farming” - Nature conservation worker Rachel Remnant, 2016 Fellow
After returning to the UK, Rachel was selected as the Hampshire Ambassador for the Floodplain Meadows Partnership (FMP) training programme. FMP Ambassadors undertake a two-year training programme to study floodplain meadows, so they can understand what impacts these special plant communities. This training means she will be able advise others who need help with their floodplain meadows.
Rachel has shared her findings across the nature conservation and farming sector. She is also tapping into networks of scythers, smallholders, Pasture for Life farmers and community groups who believe in people making a living from the land, in tune with nature. With policy changes on the horizon, it is a key time to mobilise.