Celebrating another year of Colour in the Margins

South West

We have had a great survey season in the South-west!  The action all kicked off in spring when we reintroduced the endangered Small-flowered Catchfly (Silene gallica) to six sites using seed provided by the Millennium Seed Bank.  Over 100,000 seeds were spread overall!  We are really pleased to report that we had successful growth at five of the six sites and it is hoped that this species will continue to thrive at these locations.

Small-flowered Catchfly (c) Cath Shellswell

The summer survey season has been very busy indeed and over 30 sites have been visited.   We have had some incredible successes including the growth of tens of thousands of the endangered Broad-fruited Cornsalad (Valerianella rimosa) at a site in South Devon.  This amazing flush of growth came up in a cultivated margin (ploughed but not treated with herbicide).  Although this species had been recorded at this farm it had not been seen for a number of years.

Broad-fruited Cornsalad

In September we hosted training events run by the Millennium Seed Bank where two groups of volunteers learned how to sustainably collect seeds for storage at the seed bank.  This involved quite a bit of maths but we all got through it and made two great Small-flowered Catchfly seed collections which will be kept at the seed bank and may well be used for conservation projects in the future.

We have a lot of report writing to do now but we will soon be planning the reintroduction of Broad-fruited Cornsalad at two new sites in South Devon!


The Wessex CitM team has again been busy this year and we have continued to carry out targeted arable plant surveys throughout the region. As ever, we’re lucky within the Wessex area to still have relatively good numbers of some of the country’s rarest species (largely thanks to the chalky soils), and this year we surveyed 6 CitM priority species, including Corn Buttercup, Red Hemp-nettle, Pheasant’s Eye, Broad-fruited Cornsalad, Spreading Hedge-parsley and Broad-leaved Cudweed across a number of sites. Encouragingly, some of these species, such as Pheasant’s-eye, appear to have had productive seasons and were present in relative abundance at some locations.

Pheasant's Eye (c) John Martin, Plantlife

In addition, reintroductions of both Red Hemp-nettle and Pheasant’s Eye have been ongoing this year, with several reintroduction events planned for the autumn. It is hoped that as well as successfully reintroducing these critically endangered species to farmland within their historical ranges, we will also learn more about the biology of these plants and the necessary management practises required for their proliferation. John Glenn MP (our Pheasant’s Eye Species Champion) was present at a reintroduction in July to help sow seeds and learn more about the nature of arable plant conservation.

Red Hemp-nettle (c) Cath Shellswell

Furthermore, a number of events were carried out in Wessex this year, including two technical events for farmers and conservation advisers on arable plant identification and management. Both events (one in Hampshire and one in Wiltshire) were held by Kevin Wilson and Pete Thompson and were very well attended.

The Wessex CitM volunteers were also in action again this year, and several attended a habitat creation day for Red Hemp-nettle at RSPB Winterbourne Downs, where they helped reserve staff create bare ground habitat and turn soil to encourage any Red Hemp-nettle seed in the seed bank to germinate.

Mid-Somerset Hills & the North Downs

It was also a busy time for the Mid-Somerset Hills and North Downs team, who have held many training sessions and workshops, including a volunteer training day at Fivehead SSSI. Technical workshops for farmers and landowners have also been a success – building relationships and helping understand issues that arable plants face.

Allie visited 12 farms and found Colour in the Margins priority species in 18 fields – the majority of which were Spreading Hedge-parsley, however Corn Buttercup and Pheasant’s Eye were also found too.  Some other surveys also turned up other threatened species including Shepherd's-needle, Stinking Chamomile and Dwarf Spurge.

Shepherd's Needle (c) Cath Shellswell

We also did our first reintroduction project at Apex Park, near Burnham-on-Sea, managed by Sedgemoor District Council – they have been cultivating plots within the park for a number of years and these areas provide ideal conditions for the reintroductions of rare arable plants. This 200m² area will be annually ploughed in autumn in order to provide the best conditions for the reintroduced species.

We have been incredibly fortunate to have had 27 volunteers working in Somerset in 2019 and we really cannot thank all of our generous, motivated and knowledgeable conservation volunteers enough. Their contribution is crucial to the success of this project. Not only does it allow us to work with more farmers to counter the plight of rare arable plants but also to forge new and stronger relationships between local landowners and recorders, which is invaluable!

2020 is the final year of the Colour in the Margins project and there is so much more we want to do! If you haven’t already been involved and would like to volunteer please contact Zoe Morrall, Outreach Officer (Zoe.Morrall@plantlife.org.uk) -  we’d love to hear from you!


Zoe Morrall

Outreach Officer - Colour in the Margins


To find out more about about FWAG in Cornwall, please visit www.fwagsw.org.uk or head to their Twitter page @FWAGSouthWest


Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.


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