Cricklade is one of the best places in Britain to experience spring at its
The North Meadow is an ancient flood plain on the
banks of the upper Thames, which is renowned as one of the best examples of a
lowland hay meadow in Europe.
sensation at Cricklade. Photo c/o English Nature|
the days of intensive farming, many British meadows would have been covered in
Today Cricklade is a living example of how our meadow used
to look with its lush carpet of meadow flowers.
Meadow is a National Nature Reserve and is protected by Natural England.
meadow continues to be managed through an ancient Leet or manorial court which
appoints a Hayward to supervise the grazing and upkeep of the meadow.
farming methods have protected the meadow from development and preserved many
One of the most striking is the Snakeshead Fritillary,
a rare plant which flourishes in this grassland habitat.
The pretty, purple,
bell shaped flowers are at their best in early May picking is strictly forbidden,
and visitors are asked to keep to the designated footpaths.
is home to 80% of the UK's Snakeshead Fritillaries, so-named after the snake-skin
pattern and the shape of its bud before it opens.
The flowers' growth cycle
coincides with the hay season - they complete their natural annual cycle of growth
and seeding before the hay is cut.
Trampling, grazing and chemicals are
the enemies of these delicate wild flowers.
Because the meadow has been
left to grow hay for the spring and summer, the fritillaries are left untouched
for their growing period.
Look carefully and you'll see the stone markers
showing where the meadow was once split into plots for hay making.
as Fritillaries, the whole meadow is a wild flower haven with flowers such as
striking yellow Marsh Marigold, the bright green Adders' Tongue, and the pale
If you're lucky you might also see the first of the
early Marsh Orchids.
The edges around the meadow are also full of wildlife
with birds such as Cuckoos, Reed Buntings, Chaffinch and Whitethroat.
couple of miles away at Upper Waterhay meadow, there's another floral treat in
The flower meadows are on the edge of Cotswold Water Park, a series
of former gravel pits.
This is one of only two sites in Britain with large
numbers of white Snakes-head Fritillaries.
New pits are being quarried
with exposed layers of sand and clay which help provide the right conditions for
The gravel is also a rich source of prehistoric wildlife
from several million years ago.
The fossils are so plentiful that they're
literally everywhere on this site.
There are bound to be more fossils in
the gravel under North Meadow, but the area is now protected so we'll never see
photographs courtesy and copyright of Natural England.