Here at the Cotswolds Distillery, we continue to be inspired by and care for the Cotswolds National Landscape - a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and we are delighted to be supporting the Glorious Cotswold Grasslands project. At this time of year, the Cotswolds is a sight to behold with the wildflower meadows starting to bloom, and thanks to the Cotswolds National Landscape team working hard on the Glorious Cotswold Grasslands project, we hope to see even more wildflower meadows created and restored in upcoming years.
The Glorious Grasslands of the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is home to some of the rarest wildflowers in the UK, which grow on the limestone grasslands overlaying the characteristic Jurassic limestone rock that underpins the rolling hills of the Cotswolds. These limestone grasslands are significant in their floristic diversity, with up to 40 plant species per square metre, and are also an important stronghold for invertebrates including threatened species of bees and butterflies, such as the chequered-patterned Duke of Burgundy. We are fortunate to have some of the country's most treasured wildflowers found in the grasslands of the Cotswolds, such as the magnificent Pasque Flower with its purple bell-like flowers, the elegant Early Purple Orchid, and the delicate Cotswolds Penny-cress.
Just 80 years ago, 40% of our Cotswold landscape was covered in limestone grasslands, but sadly the vast majority have disappeared as a result of agricultural expansion, the widespread use of fertilisers and the removal of hedges and walls. This type of habitat now covers less than 1.5% of the Cotswolds, which consequently poses a real threat to our unique flora and fauna.
Restoring And Creating Wildflower Meadows
Fortunately, several groups are working together to try and conserve our all-important grasslands, including The National Trust, Natural England and the Wildlife Trusts to name but a few.
The Cotswolds National Landscape team has recently launched a Glorious Cotswold Grasslands project which aims ‘to create the largest network of wildflower rich limestone grassland in the country – around 100 hectares in total, over three years.’ The team are currently well on their way to smashing their target of restoring and creating 100 hectares of grassland!
If you’d like to get involved in the project and help restore our once-glorious grasslands, there are many volunteering opportunities which can be found online, from seed harvesting to helping out with botanical surveys.
Planting Our Very Own Wildflower Meadow
We were delighted to team up with Glorious Cotswold Grasslands at the end of last year for our very own flower meadow restoration project here at the distillery.
In October 2020, Glorious Cotswold Grasslands Project Officer, Harvey Sherwood, came to the distillery to scarify our adjoining meadow and replant it with Cotswold wildflowers. The higher contour ridges which run parallel down and across the field were scattered with wildflower seeds sourced from a number of heavier soil sites. Thanks to the sheep which graze the field and tread the seeds into the ground, as well as Harvey keeping a close eye on the field to optimise success rate of flower establishment, we hope to see our field in full bloom this summer which will benefit both wildlife and the environment.
Our Wildflower Gin Collection
Inspired by the wildflower-rich grasslands of the Cotswolds, we set out to create a range of floral gins which capture the essence of wildflowers in full bloom. Our fresh and fruity Cotswolds No.1 Wildflower Gin is a delightful blend of cornflower, lavender, rhubarb root and orange essences layered over a classic London Dry gin, whilst our Cotswolds No.2. Wildflower Gin features gentian, lemon balm, elderflower and chamomile. Both gin expressions are beautifully bittersweet with a pleasantly dry finish and when mixed with Indian tonic water create the most refreshing Wildflower Gin Spritz - perfect for summer drinking.
We are also soon to be releasing the third and final Wildflower Gin expression which will feature essences of hand-picked genepi, mint, yarrow and other select botanicals. Be sure to keep an eye out and sign up to our Cotswolds Distillery Club below to be the first to hear about the launch!
With the launch of this collection, we hope to raise awareness of the need to protect and conserve our beautiful and precious wildflower meadows. Hopefully in the near future you will be able to visit us in person and see our own meadow in flower!