A woman has rekindled the fondest memories of her childhood to create a natural environment that she hopes will evoke, inspire and educate future generations.
When Lindsay Gale’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, ” she said.
“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.”
Lindsay decided to spend her inheritance recreating a wildflower meadow at Clashdhu on the Altyre Estate, near Forres. More than 95% of UK’s meadows have been lost since the Second World War, and this has a direct impact on food production.
“The future of our food production is at stake as bees and other pollinators are essential for plant fertilisation.
“Nature was calling out for help, a place where pollinators could collect nectar and pollen to aid their recovery.”
Lindsay took her vision of a wildflower meadow to Sir Alistair Gordon Cumming, owner of the estate, who shares her enthusiasm for ecology and work soon got underway.
A year later and the meadow is ready to be enjoyed by the public. The meadow has been named Saorsa Seillean, Gaelic for ‘Freedom Bee’.
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.
People who have already visited the meadow have described it in the most evocative terms: “It’s absolute heaven!”, “Makes me bubble with delight!” and “I feel so joyful!” are just some of the comments left by visitors on its opening day.
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.
An antidote for our times
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 points are sanitised and hand sanitiser is available for visitors. Lindsay has cut pathways through the meadow by hand to ensure maximum engagement with nature, and she has placed signs encouraging people to “revive, relax and restore”. As Lindsay says, that the meadow is perfect as an antidote to the restrictions which have kept people locked up during the pandemic.
Lindsay added: “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 had 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.”
She 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” and 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 a Centre for Nature where children to pensioners 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.
Saorsa Seillean Wildflower Meadow is located at Clashdhu, Dunphail. To book your visit and to receive directions, call or message Lindsay on 07493 937391 with your details. Visits are weather-dependent so check ahead of time. Picnic table available to bring your own refreshments. Admission is free.