"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, 4 May 2016

Shadowbrook Meadows NR

D is on holiday this week and we paid a visit today to the quiet local Warwickshire Wildlife Trust reserve of Shadowbrook Meadows. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), covering 4.4 hectares, and falls within the larger site of Bickenhill Meadows.

The reserve consists of old meadow pastures (2 dry and 2 wet fields), a stream, wet woodland and 600 year old hedgerows. The unimproved, unfertilised, unsprayed, unploughed and species-rich grassland has been maintained over centuries by cutting hay and grazing regimes. It is a good example of how the countryside would have looked before the agricultural intensification in the twentieth century.

This scarecrow peering over the hedge really made me jump when I spotted it as I was about to climb over a stile.

Thankfully the grazing regime seems to have finished unless the cattle were out of sight in one of the wet meadows. In the past I've never bothered about the presence of cows and just tended to march across fields ignoring them but these days there seems to be a glut of stories in the media about people being attacked and chased by cattle so these days I am a trifle more wary especially as I can't run anywhere near as fast as I used to!

Lots of Dandelions, Red Campion and Garlic Mustard flowering along the path.

The first of the "dry" meadows.

Lots of wild flowers in the pastures - Cowslips and Bluebells galore, Lesser Celandine, Buttercup, Speedwell and Violet species plus a few Lady's Smock or Cuckoo flowers

I spotted my first Orange Tip of the year in the garden before we left home but at the Reserve I counted up to a dozen (admittedly some may have been the same individual) and interestingly they were all males.




Cowslips are one of my favourite Spring flowers. Alternative names include "key flower", "herb Peter", St Peter's keys" "Our Lady's bunch of keys", "Our Lady's cushion", "galligaskins", "jackanapes on horses"and "hose in hose". The names linked to keys refer to the shape of the flowers which were supposed to resemble keys. Apparently cowslips were once thought to have the power to split rocks that contained treasure!

There are a lovely few lines from a fairy song in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

"The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see,
These be rubies, fairy flavours,
In those freckles live their savours...
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear."

We saw several damselflies in one of the wetter parts of the field - all the same species and D managed to get one record shot. I am not very good at damsel/dragonfly id but checking when we returned home I think it is probably a Large Red Damselfly (please correct me if I am wrong).


I really ought to visit this reserve more often as it is only 20 minutes from home. D and I first went a few years ago in June. The post can be seen here . Just hoping the link works!! I will try and go again this summer and an autumn visit would definitely be worthwhile as waxcaps occur. EDIT - the link sort of works but for some reason if you follow it it shows the latest post i.e. this one first and you have to scroll down to the original post which appears below. Have tried to change it without success :(

We ended up having a pub lunch at The Bear Berkswell and a stop at the farm shop Meriden and then home.

*D - photos taken by D with the Canon Bridge SX50.

Reference: "Discovering the Folklore of Plants" by Margaret Baker


Rosie said...

It looks like an interesting reserve with all those wonderful spring flowers. Cowslips remind me of my childhood and school nature walks around the woods and the nature table. I think that scarecrow would have made me jump too. I saw an orange tip butterfly yesterday as we walked around the lake at Trentham:)

David said...

What a colourful and wonderful spring time post, isn't May a wonderful time of year :-) Obviously all the wildflowers are great to see though for me the highlights have to be the Orange Tip (great pic by the way) and the Large Red Damselfly, especially as I have seen neither so far this year. I do love dragonflies/damselflies so it is great to see that they are starting to reappear :-)

Hope you are well and my best wishes to all :-)

PS. the scarecrow has certainly seen better days hasn't he ;-)

Wendy said...

A lovely post. I did enjoy it. I love meadows like this, I'm hoping to explore a few more here that are owned by the Wildlife Trust. The cowslips are a beautiful spring flower, they remind me of early May holidays in Cornwall. That is great about the folklore and the cowslips splitting rocks.
I've suddenly seen more orange tips here, male and at last females - but there are still none in my garden, even though I've been encouraging the plants they like to grow here.

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks very much. Agree re: Cowslips and reminders of childhood - hedgerow banks in those days seemed full of them and Primroses. There suddenly seems to have been a mass emergence of Orange Tip round here :)

David - Thanks so much.Yes, I love May and June - probably my two favourite months of the year especially May :) It is good to see Damselflies appearing - those two photos were taken by David with the Canon Bridge SX50 - I wouldn't have stood a chance with the Olympus and the 14-42mm lens. Plus my camera started to play up yesterday (problems with autofocusing and under-exposing - not sure what the problem is but had the same problem again today :( ).

Hope you are well too and best wishes to you all. Yes agree about the Scarecrow - and it was so creepy!

Wendy - Thanks very much. Such a shame so few of these meadows still exist :( There is another orchid meadow I go too most years only open a couple of weekends so hoping to go there next month. Agree about Cowslips - such special flowers :)

Hope you get some Orange Tips soon - suddenly seem to be emerging here. 2 in the garden so far on Honesty. My husband is hoping they find the cuckoo flowers he has grown from seed! I planted some Garlic Mustard a few years back but only one came up and that has since disappeared :( Must try and get some more seeds as I like it so much.

amanda peters said...

I lovely place to visit and not far from you, could you walk there ?
Interesting to see what flowers grow as we move out of Spring into Summer. No Orange Tip's here but noted the first of the Cuckoo flowers were coming through at the park.
Going to have nightmares about that scarecrow now !:)
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks very much Amanda - too far to walk - its about 7 miles away! :(

When we went in June there were lots of Yellow Rattle - will try and visit again as you can go any time.

Orange Tips suddenly seem to have burst forth here over last couple of days - as you're further North the same thing will hopefully happen by you soon.

Saw hundreds of Cuckoo flowers on grass verges in Gloucestershire yesterday but only one Orange Tip. OH is planting Cuckoo Flowers grown from seed by the pond.

The scarecrow was pretty gross :(

Deb said...

What a lovely post! It looks such a nice place to visit. I'm not surprised that scarecrow made you jump, he is a bit gruesome. :)

Ragged Robin said...

Deb - Thanks so much. It is a peaceful place to wander round :) I think the scarecrow could give one nightmares!

Millymollymandy said...

Looks like a really interesting place and those bluebells are just beautiful. Wonderful to have seen so many Orange Tips. I think it's a Large Red Damselfly too as I believe there are only two species of red ones which makes ID much easier! It would be really interesting to revisit this site at different times of the year. I bet it's really full of butterflies later on!

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - thanks very much Mandy. We haven't had chance to visit one of our favourite bluebell woods this year so it was good to see a few en masse at Shadowbrook. Lots of OT's in the garden (well not today as its raining!). I noticed there were only a few species of red damselfly too which as you say makes id easier!! :) I will try and return as its not far and always open.