A giant vacuum is being used to collect wild flower seeds on the Bath Skyline so that they can be spread over meadows and improve plant diversity.
National Trust rangers are using a seed collector that looks and works just like a vacuum cleaner to collect the seed of the yellow rattle plant.
Yellow rattle acts as a parasite on the roots of grasses, and causes them to grow less vigorously, allowing more space for other plants. It is hoped that by developing yellow rattle on other areas of the Bath Skyline, a more diverse wildflower-rich grassland will develop, and provide an ideal habitat for pollinating insects to flourish.
In the last few years the National Trust team have been collecting yellow rattle seed (Rhinanthus minor) by hand, a process that provides a purer harvest but is slow and labour-intensive. This year’s loan of a seed-harvester from the Avon Wildlife Trust has enabled the team of rangers and volunteers to cover much more ground, in the short window between the seed ripening and it being released by the plant.
This work on the Bath Skyline has been championed by Assistant Ranger Tabi Collins, who has been visiting other local National Trust sites to investigate methods of seed collection.
Countryside Manager Rob Holden, who leads the ranger team, says: ‘In general the natural environment has seen worrying declines in wildlife diversity, partly as a result of intensive farming and under pressure from climate change. The National Trust is making a difference by managing the land in a way that is sensitive to the needs of both the environment and farming alike and so helping to restore the health and beauty of the countryside and bring back a wildlife-rich landscape.’
When the vacuuming is complete the seed will be dried and stored until winter, when it will be spread on the areas of the Skyline that need a little helping hand – to subdue the grasses, and allow space for the more delicate wildflowers to shine through.