We decided that the best way to do this was to focus on developing the bottom of the food chain, i.e encouraging a variety of grasses, native wildflowers, shrubs and trees. We also wanted to develop a range of habitat types, such as meadow, scrub and wooded areas, each of which would support its own distinctive biome.
As we were starting with fertile ex-arable land, getting a good mix of native wildflowers was going to be an ask, without some active intervention.
The easiest start was to get the council to remove the arisings when they cut areas of grass. Prior to 2006, council grass cutting had been rather chaotic with some years being missing altogether, and all the arisings left when it was cut. With just getting the arisings removed, it would still take decades for the fertility to reduce to the point where wildflower seeding could be effective. A major intervention was going to be required to accelerate this process.
So we embarked on a series of de-turfing exercises, prior to seeding with appropriate native wildflowers with seeds of known provenance. We had a good idea of what flower species grew in the district and concentrated on sowing these.
We started off by manually striping small areas by hand, but within three years or so, it was obvious that mechanical scraping was the way forward. Between 2011 and 2014 we got the council to do some major de-turfing for us. Although disruptive at the time, we have managed to establish large areas of wildflowers. We have also undertaken small de-turfing exercises where mechanical scraping was not practical, i.e. alongside wooded areas where tree roots present a problem. From 2016 onwards, we have got the Community Payback teams to do this work on our behalf.