ORCHIDS are starting to get their roots in the ground as part of a long-term meadow restoration project near Castlemorton.

Hollybed Farm Meadows were purchased by Worcestershire Wildlife Trust in 2013 and the charity has been restoring the fields since then.

Far Starling Bank, one of the nature reserve’s fields, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is full of wildflowers.

Each year, volunteers have taken some of the flower seeds from this field and scattered it over the remaining fields.

Along with seeds from other nearby meadows, this is allowing the rest of the site to gradually build up larger numbers and more varieties of plants, replacing what has been lost over the last 60 or 70 years.

From just one green-winged orchid on 2016 and 60 in 2018, there are now more than 200 appearing in four different fields.

Trust conservation officer David Molloy said: "Hollybed Farm Meadows is a special place with meadows, a wet woodland and orchard.

“It’s a very long-term game to restore something as precious as wildflower-rich meadows that have taken decades to develop.

“Whilst it can take years for the variety and numbers of plants to return, orchids in particular can be very tricky to reintroduce as they rely on a mutual relationship with certain fungi in the soil.

"So it’s fantastic to see so many orchids get their feet into the ground and begin to spread.”

England has lost about 97 per cent of its wildflower meadows since the 1940s and Worcestershire has around 20 per cent of those that remain.

Green-winged orchids are indicators of old meadows that have not been treated with chemicals, and either have never been ploughed or have not been ploughed for more than a hundred years.

Mr Molloy said: "Some of the other meadows that we own or manage have thousands of orchids so there is still a way to go at Hollybed Farm Meadows. This is a great start, however, and it’s wonderful to see so many in this relatively short space of time.

“The meadows support an array of wildlife from butterflies and bees to bats and birds.”

There is a circular walk around the meadows, which are near Castlemorton Common.

Only a handful of the orchids can be seen from the paths, but the walk does take in Far Starling Bank, where visitors can see the restoration getting under way in many of the fields.

Mr Molloy said: "The meadows and flowers are very sensitive, so access is restricted to a designated path to allow restoration to continue without delicate flowers being trampled.”

Hollybed Farm Meadows is Worcestershire’s Coronation Meadow, part of an initiative set up by the Prince of Wales in 2013 to restore meadows that had been lost since the coronation of the queen in 1953.