"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

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

A Wander Round an Ancient Hay Meadow

Last Sunday I went along to the annual opening of Monkspath Meadow - an ancient hay meadow believed to be around 800 years old. The Meadow which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest is owned by Notcutts Garden Centre and managed under the supervision of English Nature. The meadow is only open one or two weekends a year under the helpful guidance of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.

The meadow supports 150 species of flora including various grass species, commonly found in old meadows, marshland and ancient woodland.

There were far fewer species in flower this year than in the past following the trend of so many flowering plants this Spring.

Apologies that the photos aren't that sharp - it was rather windy and, in addition, Brian and David had decided to come along and as they had completed the entire circuit whilst I was still at the beginning(!), I couldn't spend as long as usual taking photos or even changing to the macro lens for some of the shots.

The star of the show are the displays of Heath Spotted Orchids (Orchis ericetorum)

The Meadows are open again this weekend and I would imagine far more of the orchids will by then be flowering.

Tormentil (Potentilla erecta)

Bugle (Ajuga reptans)

Burnet spp

Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)

Ribwort Plantain and a mixture of grasses

Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea)

Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris)

I was thrilled to see my first Common Blue Butterfly of the year - as usual with most butterflies I see it didn't linger so a poor record shot!!

Meadow Buttercup and Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaea)

I couldn't help thinking of Edith Holden (who wrote the Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady and Nature Notes in 1905 and 1906) as I walked round the meadow. Until the 1930's traditional hay meadows, such as this one, full of insects and butterflies, were found throughout Warwickshire and she must have walked through meadows like this every day in the summer months.

Sadly during the course of the twentieth century England and Wales have lost around 97% of their traditional haymeadows due to intensification of agriculture. New roads and housing developments have led to the loss of many other such meadows.

Apologies to any long time readers of my blog who have already "walked" round this meadow with me at least twice before. At times I do worry that my blog is very repetitive visiting the same old places and seeing the same old things year in and year out!


Countryside Tales said...

Not repetitive for me so thanks for posting it! How completely wonderful to have an 800 year old meadow but how sad to think we've lost so many in such a short space of time. Hopefully that trend is starting to reverse. I was very interested in the "grassless lawn" featured on the BBC website this week. Things are moving in the right direction gently I think. Ct :-)

Toffeeapple said...

I don't mind how many time I walk around the meadow with you, it is always beautiful and brings back so many memories of my Welsh childhod.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thank you :) Yes hopefully moving in right direction - BBC feature was very interesting. Also thinking Coronation Meadows and there seems to be movement to get Councils to mow verges less.

Toffeeapple - Thank you - you are so kind : I am so glad you enjoy and it brings back so many memories for you.

I seem to be doing a lot of wildflower posts this year! :) Will try and fit in some birding too soon.

Dartford Warbler said...

It is a pleasure to see that beautiful meadow again. We have quite a few of those flowers growing on the grassy rides and heaths of the New Forest and I hope to go up and photograph the nearest spotted heath orchids when this rain stops!

David Turner said...

That looks like a lovely place for a wildflower stroll on a fine summer's day :-) Nice to see the Orchids, Heath Spotted being a species I am not familiar with unfortunately, as well as all the other flowers. Also good to see a Common Blue on the wing :-)

Like you I also enjoy Edith Holden's Nature Notes and leafing through to see what things have changed and what hasn't since it was written over a century ago is always an interesting exercise.

PS. Thank you for your kind words on my blog :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Dartford Wabrbler - Thank you :) Do hope the rain stops soon! and I look forward to seeing your photos. You seem to be having fun experimenting with your new camera :)

David Turner - Thank you :) I was rather pleased to see the Common Blue :)

Lovely to know someone else enjoys Edith Holden's work :) I know Jan (ShySongbird) does too :)

I did quite a few posts last year visiting places she had written about but I just don't seem to have had the time this year. But hopefully a few more will appear.

I do hope you continue blogging David. I would be saddened if you didn't - but don't want to put pressure on you. I know how time consuming it is and sometimes how difficult it is to get motivated. But should you decided to stop (even for a while) please may I ask that you don't delete your blog. I know some people do and it is such a shame.

Wendy said...

I loved reading this, I'll never get tired of looking at wild flowers in hay meadows - and this is an ancient hay meadow, too. It's wonderful that it's probably 800 years old. Lovely photos of the flowers; those Orchids are beautiful. I'm hoping to visit my nearest Coronation Meadow in the next few days (if the weather improves). It is appalling that we've lost so many of these precious wild flower meadows.

Em Parkinson said...

Lovely to go round the meadow for me too. So few of them left. Last year, I went tussock hopping over our nearby marsh looking for Orchids so, seeing yours are out, I may get out there to see if they've appeared yet. Lovely photos!

ShySongbird said...

Hi Caroline :-) I am very happy to keep walking around your meadow with you as many times as you like, it is just such a shame that these days there are so few meadows left to enjoy. I think the very nature (ouch, unintended pun!) of our particular subject means we will inevitably be repetitive but interested readers will understand that and of course there are often new visitors discovering our blogs.

Anyway, I have very much enjoyed seeing your photos of all the flowers you saw there, it really does look a lovely place to walk. I too often think of Edith while out walking in secluded places and you of course have even more reason to do so knowing you are quite often 'walking in her footsteps' :-)

Well done on the Common Blue, I haven't seen one yet this year and saw very few last :-( The orchids are beautiful! I was hoping I might find some last weekend but we had none of the promised 'glorious' weather, it was dull, dull, dull here! I heard yesterday that we may have miserable weather throughout July and into August, apparently we have that dratted jet stream which plagued us all last summer to blame. Let's just hope their predictions are wrong.

Still no final decision made just lots of dithering (far too good at that!) but meant to say before that I wouldn't delete blog whatever happens. Thanks for pond info. If we do go ahead I'm sure I have books and Internet bookmarks with info for construction somewhere but will remember your kind offer :-)

Bovey Belle said...

How lovely to see an ancient hay meadow like this preserved. As you say, we have lost SO much. A friend of mine up in Cardiganshire has about 10 acres of fields which are "unimproved" and have Yellow Rattle, Orchids and various of the components of proper old hay meadows, so perhaps there are more out there, but unrecorded.

My particular pet hate is Councils cutting verges, at all, but especially at inappropriate times. Two weeks ago they came and cut OUR lane verges - right when my wild Aquilegias were just starting to bloom. I think they are trying to stop the Cow Parsley setting seed, but to mow down quite rare wild flowers (not so much around here, but you hardly see them growing wild in England) . . . I am going to collect wild seed from other uncut verges and re-sow, but on the INSIDE of our field hedge.

What brought me to tears a couple of years back was to find the most stunning country churchyard (well, chapel graveyard really) which was half an acre of wall to wall Aquilegias and absolutely amazing, had been cut to the ground on the half which didn't have gravestones, to "tidy it up" . . . I can't bear to go there this year for fear they have put Roundup on the rest . . .

Tricia Ryder said...

Wild flower meadows can never be repetitive.. lovely to have so many flowers... even though not as many as usual... please don't stop repeating Caroline :)

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - Thank you so much so glad you enjoyed :) The huge loss of such beautiful places doesn't really bear thinking about :(

The Coronation Meadows are a brilliant idea - the Warwickshire one is Draycote Meadow I believe. A long way from me but I will try and visit one day.

Em Parkinson - Thank you so much :) To me the date of the Open Days there are always a bit too early in the season and I think the orchids would be more "open" in a few weeks. They were even more behind, like so many other flowers this Spring, this year.

Good luck in your hunting - do hope you can find some and perhaps put photos on your blog? :)

ShySongbird - Thank you so much for your kind words - they have certainly made me feel a lot better :) I think we all have moments of thinking "why am I doing this? and I've done posts on this so many times before and why would anyone be really interested?" !!! :)

So glad someone else thinks of Edith when walking too :) Haven't forgotten the dvd from USA purchase. Just seems to have been expensive few months - bdays, hols etc., and I have spent more than I should have done on books recently :) I may ask you again about it when ready to order to make sure I get the right version!!!!

I never see many Common Blues and sometimes I go on holiday and see different types of blues and are rapidly trying to work out which ones they might be usually without much success because I see so few of the blue species :) Sorry rambling again :)

Not good news re: jet stream!!! Oh dear :(

re Garden Ponds - I meant to mention in last comment that "Countryside Tales" blog (see link in my blog list as I am not sure if you visit the blog) did a superb posting recently about making a garden pond from scratch with lots of photos of work in progress - well worth a visit.

Take your time over your decision Jan - and just take a long break if necessary and see how you feel after a few months. You know how much I love your blog but as I said to David who is having similar thoughts, I really don't want to put any pressure to bear.

Whatever you decide please keep in touch.

Bovey Belle - Thank you. Your friends meadow sounds absolutely wonderful. I think there are fragments throughout the country and I have read recently (in Countryfile Magazine) of valleys in Yorkshire where there are loads of such meadows.

That is dreadful news about the verges and especially the Wild Aquilegias. So glad you have the idea of planting some where Council can't mow!!

There are some lovely grass verges locally and I dread that one day I will drive along and they will have been mown. Made a point recently of tweeting 2 Councils to congratulate them on leaving certain verges and roundabouts unmown.

That is the most awful news about your country churchyard - I can well understand why you don't want to return. I discovered a lot of churchyards last year that were "managed" with wildlife in mind and they were such a picture. I think there are various schemes (here in England at least) to encourage a less tidy God's Acre. Did you contact the parish council of the churchyard and explain importance of site for the Aquilegias?

Tricia Ryder - Thank you so much :) Have no fear the repetition will continue :)!!!!

There are a lot of places I would love to visit further afield - but still haven't got too much spare time at the moment.

SeagullSuzie said...

What a lovely meadow to have so close. We have orchids here along the coastal path and on Berry Head, so I must get photos of them and start learning what they are. I must go out and take photos of the wild flowers at Berry Head, apparently we have soem rare and unusual ones!

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Many thanks. Hedgerows etc. seem full of wild flowers finally :)

Would love to see some photos of the Berry Head and your local wildflowers.

One of the things I love most about Cornwall are the flowers. Once had a holiday on The Lizard and the displays there were stunning :)