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Eco Committee

Eco Committee work with On the Verge

On 25th March 2022 some of the children in the Eco Committee interviewed Jo (On the Verge), Amy and Graham (Natural England) about the new wildflower meadow project and more. This is what they found out:

Jo explained that On the Verge started out working with the local council creating wildflower meadows in Cambridge city parks. She then thought it would be good to work with younger people and that’s how the idea started to spread out to younger people in schools. She’s now keen to focus on the schools they are already working with so they can come into them more and start to add some more projects as well as the meadow to help increase the biodiversity in each school.

Amy said that Cambridgeshire is one of the areas where people have the least access to nature in the whole of the UK because a lot of the land in Cambridgeshire is very good for farming, which is important for providing food, but it does mean that wildlife and nature doesn’t have quite as much space, so part of what the government wants to achieve is to make sure people all over the country have a good amount of access to nature and green space with all the benefits that that gives us – it makes us feel happy being outdoors and it’s really important for the future of biodiversity.

When did the project start? Jo said it started last summer when she contacted a few school and realised there was interest. She then looked around for some funding, and that’s when Natural England came forward and said they’d be really interested in supporting On the Verge because creating a meadow (like the one at Queen Emma) requires heavy machinery, so they had to hire a man with the machine and pay him for his time. Then there’s the cost of buying the seed. So Natural England have been brilliant in coming forward and helping OtV with the funding for this project.

Amy talked about the wildflower seeds in our meadow … some seeds need a cold winter before they can germinate and some seeds can tolerate being sown in Spring so this (Queen Emma’s) was a Spring meadow but next year some of the other species might come through that have then had a cold spell throughout Winter. The list of seeds is very long: there are different grassland wildflowers, such as corn flowers, poppies, ox-eye daisies, nigella with its amazing seed pods. There’s a mix of grasses in there too, as a natural meadow would be full of different types of grasses as well as flowers that support different species of insects and birds. She explained that some seeds can remain dormant in the ground for as long as 40 years and germinate when the conditions are right, so leaving grass to grow longer can encourage new plants to grow that weren’t able to grow before in the short grass.

Graham talked about ideas for the future development of our site. He pointed out that On the Verge is responsible for the actual work in schools, and Natural England supports Jo’s work at On the Verge. Personally, he would like to improve the pond. He would also like to see the whole fence (between Queen Emma and Netherhall) covered in flowers and fruit, but he didn’t want to raise everyone’s expectations too much and get everyone over excited! On the other hand, he does want to get people thinking about what could be possible. Another ideas might be to grow a chestnut hedge with fruit espaliers in it as well. He explained how espaliers are trees that can be trained to be the height of children so they can look after them and pick the fruit at harvest time. Graham would also like to see the children coming up with their own ideas for projects that On the Verge and Natural England can support in the future.