It was National Meadows Day on 2 July this year – the second time this celebration of meadows at the peak of their gloriousness has taken place.
More than 100 events took place across the country, on nature reserves, country parks and other sites, with guided walks, family activities, photography courses and even scything workshops!
National Meadows Day is run under the umbrella of the campaign ‘Save our magnificent meadows’ – the UK’s largest partnership project transforming the fortunes of vanishing wildflower meadows, grasslands and wildlife.
Led by the Plantlife charity, the partnership is made up of 11 organisations and is primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Six thousand hectares of wildflower meadows and grasslands come under the scheme, and National Meadows Day encourages the public to go and enjoy walking, running and playing in them. It also raises the awareness of the desperate plight of these fragile areas and equipping communities with knowledge and skills to try and reverse the decline.
I didn’t visit any of the organised events, as the closest was at least an hour’s drive. But I took particular attention of the meadows I walk across each day with the dogs, that morning.
There are eight, adjoining grassland fields. Most are traditional water meadows – which in times of heavy rainfall, perhaps once or twice a year and mainly in the winter, flood with water so that I can’t walk across them, keeping it well away from the village. Grass doing a great job of flood control.
Years ago, these fields were ploughed and crops were grown, but in the past ten years or so, they have been seeded with grass mixtures and cared for under various agri-environment schemes, including extensive grazing by native breed cattle during the summer.
A bank of tall trees run alongside the River Cam is home to very many birds – I have seen barn owls and kingfishers.
Each of the fields has a very different mixture of plants – depending on where it is and how it has been looked after. This year, I found at least three different orchids in one field, including the Common Spotted Orchid. How excited I was to come across, unexpectedly three Bee Orchids amongst the tall, thick grass.
On more open areas, plants such as the Musk Mallow bushes have popped up across a wide area with profuse and beautiful pink flowers – held high above the shorter grass below.
And the list of species growing across these areas is almost endless: sainfoin, red clover, white clover, knapweed, wild mint, white campion, birdsfoot trefoil, fescues and bents and meadow grasses. A glorious jumble of plants, living and fighting each other for space and light.
I hope to take a closer look at each of the eight meadows, throughout the next year – to explore in more detail what makes them so individual and so special, and will report back!