A SPECTACULAR nature reserve near Checkley will provide a stunning backdrop to the BBC's flagship gardening programme when it airs this week.

Friday's Gardener's World will star Herefordshire nature reserve, Joan's Hill Farm, in a special programme dedicated to wildflower meadows.

Broadcasting at 9pm on BBC2, the episode will see Monty Don and the team focus their attention on the loss of wildflower habitats in the UK, and explore the part that gardeners can play in averting the resulting loss of wildlife.

Mr Don will be seen reporting from Joan’s Hill Farm throughout the programme.

This jewel in the Herefordshire countryside boasts 40 acres of meadow, alongside other vital natural habitat, and supports a host of species.

Wild sorrel grows here, alongside knapweed, meadow vetchling and selfheal, while marsh thistle and meadowsweet are found in damper corners.

In some areas, common spotted-orchids are so abundant that they form carpets of pale lilac.

Plantlife experts, including Botanical Specialist Dr Trevor Dines, were able to guide Mr Don around the site to look at some of the important meadow species and illustrate why nature reserves like Joan’s Hill and the habitats they support are so important to wildflowers and the wildlife that rely on them.

The eradication of wildflower meadows has been staggering, with a 97 per cent loss since the 1930s.

And 75 per cent of remaining meadows, botanically richer than any other habitat, occur in small fragments and remain vulnerable to destruction.

Dr Dines said: “Magnificent meadows can support 770 species of flowering plants and are a botanical treasure trove able to enrich a wonderful wealth of wildlife:

"We know the meadows at Joan’s Hill Farm support 160 species alone, including less common species such as greater butterfly-orchid, green-winged orchid and scarce dyer’s greenweed.

"Not only do nearly 1,400 species of pollinators and other insects rely on meadow plants for their survival, but meadows also contribute greatly to carbon sequestration and capturing floodwaters.

"That species-rich grasslands now constitute only a paltry 1 per cent of the UK land area is a tragedy”.

Under the Grassland Action Plan, Plantlife is calling for much better legal protection for meadows to save wildflowers and the billions of bees, bugs and butterflies they support.

In addition to campaigning to save and protect meadows, Plantlife will spearhead a drive to restore 120,000 hectares of species-rich grassland by 2043. To sign their petition, visit: http://bit.ly/meadowspetition

If you'd like to visit Joan's Hill Farm during this year's meadow flowering, now is the time to do it. The traditionally managed meadowland will be cut for hay later this month. For more information, visit: www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/nature-reserves-important-plant-areas/nature-reserves/joans-hill-farm