Take a look at this short video, how it all began
The story so far
Saorsa Seillean Wildflower Meadows
“It's absolute heaven!”
“Makes me bubble with delight!”
“I feel so joyful!”
These are just some of the expressions heard on opening day of the Saorsa seillean Wildflower Meadow on the Altyre Estate near Dunphail in Moray. And smiling over this idyllic scene is Lindsay Gale, founder and the driving force behind the meadow.
When Lindsay's father, Michael Dolby, passed away nearly two years ago, he left a small inheritance to be shared between his six children. It didn't take Lindsay long to figure out what to do with her portion. “I was just sitting still one evening and it came to me. My strongest connection to my father had been through nature and one of my fondest memories of a child was being surrounded by bees, hoverflies, butterflies and a myriad of other insects in a wildflower meadow. Nature was calling out for help, a place where pollinators could collect nectar and pollen to aid their recovery. The name of the meadow, Saorsa seillean, Lindsay explains is Gaelic for 'Freedom Bee'.
Lindsay took her vision of a wildflower meadow to Sir Alistair Gordon Cumming, owner of the Altyre Estate, who shared her eco-enthusiasm and work soon got underway. A year later and the meadow is ready to be enjoyed by the public. The project has also attracted the involvement of the Finderne Development Trust and Lindsay hopes to engage other community organisations in the future. And, of course, Lindsay has had the help of family and friends. Her three children Harry, Olivia, and Grace have pitched in as has her good friend Iain Lapsley who put hours of labour into the meadow, especially helpful when Lindsay broke her ankle.
Currently, the meadow is home to more than two dozen varieties of wildflower as well as bees, butterflies, birds, and a variety of insects and meadow creatures. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Lindsay has prepared a safe and enjoyable visitor experience. Visits are one group family/friends at a time and last approximately an hour. In between, touch spots are sanitised. There's also a table with hand sanitiser available. Lindsay has hand-cut pathways through the meadow to ensure maximum engagement with nature and signs throughout the meadow encouraging people to “revive, relax, restore”. As Lindsay says, that the meadow is the “perfect place to come to”, an antidote to the restrictions which have kept people locked up during the pandemic.
Given that 97% of the U.K.'s meadows have disappeared since the Second World War, the future of our food production is at stake as bees and other pollinators are essential for plant fertilization. Therefore, the creation of a wildflower meadow in Moray that encourages bees, butterflies, and birds to come to the area is an important conservation project. Lindsay reminds us that she started with no previous knowledge or experience of botany or creating a meadow. She wants to inspire people to plant wildflowers of their own whether it's just a pot, a patch, or a park. In fact, on the opening day, one man left promising to start his own wildflower project. “If I can do it,” she laughs, “you can do it and with the help of family and friends it will become a reality.”
Of course, an acre of wildflower meadow requires some work and the help of others. Lindsay recruited friends to help with preparation and Sir Alistair contributed too. Most days, you'll find Lindsay in the meadow pulling dock weed and chickweed so light can get to the wildflowers helping them to grow. She also spends time recording each species of plant as well as recording what's using and living in the meadow. She says that the meadow has shown her the “balance of life and death in Nature”. She recalls the sadness she felt at seeing the ox-eye daisies fade and die but then seeing hope in the seeds that they had scattered promising new life. “It's taught me a lot about acceptance, about being still and observing life.”
As for the future, Lindsay envisions more meadows and a Centre for Nature where children and others can have a hands on experience in the meadow while having a facility where wildlife specialists and nature experts can teach how to sustain the natural world in the future. She also sees the meadow as a place where well-being and creative workshops could be held. Judging from the enthusiastic responses on the first few days of opening, the future looks bright and blooming.
Written by Dr Michael Williams