A new project to raise awareness and interest in plants, to highlight their importance and their interactions with other species and to collect records across the UK:
Last year, our Meadows Group introduced a scheme called the Big Meadow Search (BMS), which was initially just aimed at our own county, but it generated so much interest outside Carmarthenshire that we decided to make it UK wide. Even with a very short lead-in time it managed to generate 75 searches across 14 counties extending from Newcastle upon Tyne down to Totnes.
We devised a BMS species list from a combination of the National Plant Monitoring Scheme lowland grassland indicator species, and additional plants of interest recommended by Kath and Richard Pryce, our Carmarthenshire County plant recorders. Although we are focusing on the BMS species list, we encourage participants to record all the plant species they come across during their search as these will also be of interest and value.
Searches can be undertaken on any type of unimproved (in the agricultural sense) grassland including meadows, field edges. woodland rides, road verges, wild amenity grasslands, church yards etc. Searching is easy to do and accessible to everyone as all it entails is making note of the location name, grid reference and date and then ambling along a grassland area and recording the species seen. No specialist equipment is required but a good plant identification guide, a hand lens and a camera are always helpful. Records submitted to BMS will be analysed to assess the number of participants, geographical coverage, types of grassland searched, range and numbers of plant species encountered and the proportions of positive and negative indicator species per search area. Once the BMS analysis is complete, the submitted records will be forwarded to the relevant local environment record centre (LERC) so that the collected data can be put to maximum use.
Ahead of the 2022 summer search period, we have been running a social media project to raise interest in plants. There are frequent posts on Twitter (@bigmeadowsearch) and Facebook (Big Meadow Search group) featuring plant identification tips and information on interactions with other species such as invertebrates and fungi.
For 2022 we have developed a Big Meadow Search website: https://www.bigmeadowsearch.co.uk/ to allow online data submission.
The website is also a resource for plant information and references. If searchers come across a species they are unsure of, photographs can be posted on our social media or emailed to us and we will try and help with the identification.
Although there are already UK wide botanical schemes, we feel BMS offers something new and fills a gap. BMS search sites are not allocated so searches can be self-selected and opportunistic. You don’t need to target a meadow; a wild area in your garden or allotment, the local church yard even a road verge or layby would be of interest to us. We have a three-month time period for the searches to be undertaken (all of June, July, and August). Searchers need not feel pressured to identify everything they come across as records of common species are as useful as those of rare ones.
Feedback from last year’s BMS has demonstrated that participants derived increased appreciation and knowledge of local places and natural history as well as generating records. This year we aim to build on this experience, increase the number of participants and extend the geographical coverage.
So please, this summer, get outside and take a walk in some grassland and write down what you see! Take a look at the BMS website https://www.bigmeadowsearch.co.uk/ for further information, and if you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us via email@example.com