Wonderful wildflower meadows must be preserved, say authors

Husband and wife John and Margaret Pilkington who have published a wildflower book
Husband and wife John and Margaret Pilkington who have published a wildflower book

The disappearance of wildflower meadows in Sussex and across the UK is at the heart of a book produced by Lindfield academics Margaret and John Pilkington.

The 224-page tome entitled Wildflower Meadows, Survivors from a Golden Age, is a treasure of wonderful photography by John, a doctor of zoology and former university lecturer, and illuminating text by his wife, also a PhD and Emeritus senior lecturer from Sussex University who now leads its River Ouse Project.

The book looks at the delicate balance of wildflower meadows, their history and former role in the countryside and their demise now, including their raising to ‘action plan target community’ status by the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

Margaret said: “What I want to do in the book is celebrate wildflower meadows and this valuable part of our heritage with their bumble bees, hive bees and butterflies.”

However, the uphill battle faced by wildflower meadows and haymeadows is that they are in flower and looking their best for only a couple of months of the summer although, during that time, they nurture numerous insects and pollinators that are invaluable to not only eco-systems but to crop and food production.

The book also reminds us of the acute pressure our meadows are under from the drive to build more houses across the country, but particularly in the south east.

Margaret, who grew up in Kent but has lived with her husband in Backwoods Close, Lindfield, for 29 years, said she was now seeing the same development in Sussex as she had begun to see in Kent during her childhood.

She said: “Sussex is the most wonderful county, it is quite amazing. There is so much of it still there but we are rapidly covering it in houses. I am very, very concerned about it.”

Wildflower Meadows, Survivors from a Golden Age © by Margaret Pilkington, photography by John Pilkington, is published by Papadakis (www.papadakis.net), priced at £25, ISBN 978-1-906506-26-1 and is available from Bookstop in Lindfield High Street and Waterstones in Haywards Heath.

For more on this story and to see more of the photos featured in the book pick up a copy of this week’s Mid Sussex Times (Thursday, February 7).