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Posted by / 30-Aug-2017 09:22

Tom Normandale, the other Cornfield Project co-ordinator, says they are always looking for more farmers to take part in the scheme and gardeners, allotment holders and schools to act as volunteer growers.

Most of those who are involved, he says, do it because they are enthusiastic about wildlife and plant conservation.

Poppies are at their best in summer.”Although the common poppy (Papaver rhoeas) managed to survive in many field margins despite the advent of weedkillers, a related species known as the prickly poppy (Papaver argemone) went into steep decline.

Its population has been revived by the project, however, and Chris is growing it in his greenhouse for seeds which will be given to farmers.

And so poppies and dozens of other plants which had brought pageants of colour to the British countryside each summer were finally eradicated.

Now, though, the deflowering of arable fields is being reversed by a dozen or so Yorkshire farmers taking part in a unique initiative run from a remote corner of the North York Moors National Park.

It now grows spontaneously in a dense yellow swathe at Silpho, and last year we probably had thousands of them there.”The third rarity successfully reared by the project is the shepherd’s needle (Scandix pecten-veneris), which had declined by 70 per cent in the UK since the 1950s and was considered extinct in Yorkshire until found growing near Scarborough in 2003.

It is now thriving at Silpho and a number of other sites.

Like most flowers of arable land it was still common half a century ago but in the 1970s was thought to have completely vanished.“We’re getting a lot of interest just now because of the World War One centenary,” says Chris Wilson, a farmer who works as joint co-ordinator of the project.“Some people have asked us if we can provide poppies for commemorative services in November, but I had to tell them the flowers will all be dead by then.One of the most striking of all is the cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), also known by country folk as “bluebottle” and said by the poet John Clare to “trouble the cornfield with its destroying beauty”.This year, however, the flower everyone is asking the project to provide is the common poppy.

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Their prayers were answered by the drive to feed the growing population of baby boomers in the 1950s.

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