City of Meadows
By Katie Eberstein
Brighton & Hove Environmental Education Officer
Brighton & Hove is flanked to the north by rare chalk grassland, a rich habitat for pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Nationally and locally these species are in decline, with one-third of Britain’s bee population disappearing over the past decade and a quarter of Europe’s bumblebees threatened with extinction. Over 97% of all flower-rich grasslands have been lost in England since the 1930s, and this loss is also evident in Sussex.
Recent research suggests that cities play an important role in conserving pollinators. Since Brighton & Hove declared a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2018, much has been done to encourage pollinators from the Downs into the city, with initiatives like wildflower verges, bee banks and leaving grass unmown.
Schools in the city are also playing their part – this year over 30 schools signed up to the ‘City of Meadows’ project. Each school has created either a micro, mini or medium meadow in their grounds. Pupils, staff and parents have helped clear the ground, sow local chalk grassland seed and watched as their meadows have sprung to life. In addition, wildflower plugs created by the local Stanmer Wildflower Conservation Society, who collect and propagate local seeds, have been supplied thanks to funding from the South Downs National Park Trust. In total an additional 1000 square meters of wildflower habitat has been created in school grounds in the city.
Many of the local urban schools have small playgrounds with little greenspace – however they have been creative, sowing their seed in pots, raised beds and even a wheelbarrow. In this case, it’s not size that matters – the key element is that schools are helping form a nature recovery network for pollinators, linking the city with the South Downs.
City of Meadows is run through the Brighton & Hove Environmental Education (BHee) programme, funded by Brighton & Hove City Council and delivered by Sussex Wildlife Trust.
We’ve been able spread important messages about nature, pollinators and how to take action to help wildlife through online teacher information sessions, assemblies to share with the whole school, and pollinator workshops with pupils.
We’ve surveyed thousands of local young people and from this we know they care about nature, but also fear for its survival. In a time when so many young people are suffering eco-anxiety, this project not only gives hope for nature, but also gives hope to young people, giving them an opportunity to take action for wildlife and make a difference.
We hope that schools will enjoy the beauty and richness of their new resource, to inspire, engage and enrich the curriculum. As one child said ‘I feel proud that we are doing this for the bees...’