"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Walk Around an Ancient Hay Meadow

Until the 1930's traditional hay meadows were found throughout Warwickshire. The meadows were cut for hay in summer and cattle would then graze on any late growth fertilizing the fields as they did so and keeping the meadows free of coarse grasses. The meadows were full of insects and butterflies. However, intensification of agriculture since the 1930's has led to traditional flower meadows being replaced by green leys and arable fields. New roads and housing developments have led to the loss of many other meadows.

Sadly, over the course of the last century England and Wales lost around 97% of their traditional hay meadows.

Fortunately, a few remnants of these flower-rich meadows still survive and this afternoon I visited Monkspath Meadow which may be 800 years old. This Meadow is a Site of Scientific Interest with 150 species of flowers and grasses recorded. It is managed by Notcutts Garden Centre under the direction of English Nature and opens for just one weekend a year under the watchful eye of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.

I did make a note of the common and scientific names of the plants as I walked round but unfortunately at some stage I managed to lose my list so if any of my plant identifications are incorrect please let me know.

The first set of photos were taken with my Olympus E-420 and the 14-42mm lens.

Pignut (Conopodium majus)
Umbellifer plants always seem to be crawling with insects

Thistle and Bumble

The meadow is renowned for its superb display of Heath Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata) - the colour variation in the flowers is amazing - they seemed every shade of white, pink and mauve

This tiny yellow flower is Tormentil (Potentilla erecta)

Meadow Thistle (Cirsium dissectum) I couldn't get close enough to take decent photos of some species as they were well away from the path which had been cut through the meadow.

Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis)

Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) and Meadow Buttercups (Ranunculus acris) were everywhere

The delicate white flowers of Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea)

Cuckoospit was frothing on many flowers. Although it starts to appear at the same time of year as we hear cuckoos calling, it has no connection with them whatsoever. The white frothy liquid bubbles are produced by the immature nymphs of Frog-hoppers - a sap sucking insect. The cuckoo spit probably protects the nymphs from predators.

Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

Yellow Rattle


The rest of the photos were taken with the 35mm f3.5 macro lens - sorry for any repetition of photos I wanted to compare the two lens so walked round the meadows twice!


Meadow Buttercup

Heath Spotted Orchid

Since seeing my first Tree Bumble Bee earlier this year I am now seeing them everywhere!

Thistle and Bumble


Bird's Foot Trefoil (I think?!) - has a variety of names such as Bacon and Egg and Lady's Slippers

Hawkbit spp?

Yellow Rattle


Heath Spotted Orchids

Bugle (I think) (Ajuga reptans)

Many thanks to the lovely gentlemen from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust for all their help - sorry I didn't get your names!

For more information on Monkspath Meadow - please see my post from June 2011 entitled "An Ancient Hay Meadow" - sorry for not providing a direct link (for some unknown reason I can't get links or italics or bold on Blogger to work!).


Toffeeapple said...

Such glorious pictures, the have made me so relaxed that I am amazed. they took me right back to my Welsh childhood when wild flowers were all around me. Thank you.

Dartford Warbler said...

What a beautiful meadow! Thank goodness that some of the old wild flower meadows are being preserved.

There are patches of Spotted Heath Orchids in grassy places around the New Forest heathland. I took a friend up to see our nearest ones this morning. Very special flowers. We even found a few almost white ones.

kirstallcreatures said...

What a lovely looking meadow, those Heath Spotted Orchids are wonderful.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Many thanks for such a lovely comment - Its lovely when a post gives such pleasure. I often think back to my childhood too when there seemed to be wildflowers and butterflies everywhere.

Dartford Warbler - Many thanks. As you say thank goodness some meadows are being preserved - its unbelievably awful how many have been lost for ever.

I am glad you have some of the same orchids in the New Forest - I was amazed at how the colours varied and orchids are so beautiful.

Kirkstall Creatures - Many thanks Linda. The orchids are so delicate - they look like little butterflies I think :)

Dean said...

Lovely set of photos, Caroline.

Ragged Robin said...

Dean - Many thanks :)

ShySongbird said...

What a lovely and interesting post Caroline. Great minds think alike with the meadow ;-) The orchids are so pretty! I've never seen the Heath Spotted before, the photos look really beautiful when enlarged!

What a shame there are so few of these meadows left. Around 97% lost!! I can't tell you how much that saddens me. I read that as well as the reason you mentioned a large amount of them were also lost during the war when they were ploughed up and used to grow vegetables :-(

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed your post and all the lovely photos. Re. your reply on the previous post, yes I did see the 'dung lady'. We were eating at the time and the two didn't go together very well!! ;-)

Omi said...

A lovely record, Caroline! Meadows are one of my favourite things. One day I want to live where I can see a meadow from the kitchen window.

Pete said...

lovely post RR. I wish I was able to id the flowers!!

don't you find it scary that so many people regard them as weeds?

Ragged Robin said...

Shy Songbird - Many thanks Jan for your lovely comments. I spotted your blog posting just after I had published mine and thought what a coincidence!! As you say "Great minds...." :).

The degradation of the British Countryside (loss of meadows, hedgerows, etc.) is really depressing and the thought it might get worse as population grows even more with the associated needs for houses etc. etc. is dreadful.

LOL! re: the "dung lady" - I must remember to eat before Springwatch is on!

Omi - Many thanks - Yes, it would be lovely to get a meadow view from the kitchen window - especially if it was on the IofW :)

Pete - Many thanks. My flower id skills are pretty basic! but I am making an effort this year to id some of those I don't recognise!

Yes, it is frightening that so many regard wildflowers as weeds. In many cases I think they are more beautiful than cultivated flowers.

Rohrerbot said...

This looks like a fun and educational challenge. The story in Britain and Wales is similiar to our own here in the States. Prairie land was considered available and open for agriculture and constructing homes. Thankfully people are more aware of these areas now and in some cases trying to restore them to their natural beginnings.

Ragged Robin said...

Hi Chris - Glad to see you back :) Hope you had a great vacation. Its good when things that have been destroyed are restored :)