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17 September 2014
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Bloomin' marvellous!

North Meadow c/o English Nature

Cricklade is one of the best places in Britain to experience spring at its blooming best!

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.

Spring sensation at Cricklade. Photo c/o English Nature

Before the days of intensive farming, many British meadows would have been covered in wild flowers.

Today Cricklade is a living example of how our meadow used to look with its lush carpet of meadow flowers.

Marvellous meadows

Cricklade meadow c/o English NatureNorth Meadow is a National Nature Reserve and is protected by Natural England.

The 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.

Ancient farming methods have protected the meadow from development and preserved many wonderful flowers.

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.


Fritillary c/o English NatureCricklade 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 well 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 lilac Cuckooflower.

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.

Flowers and fossils

Snakes-head Fritillary c/o English Nature and Pseter WakelyA couple of miles away at Upper Waterhay meadow, there's another floral treat in store.

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 Fritillaries.

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 them.

Photo credits

All photographs courtesy and copyright of Natural England.



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