I am very partial to pulling the heads off of long grass stems. It seems slightly irreverent I know, but I love the feeling of those tiny seeds lingering between my fingers before falling back to the earth.
There’s something very comforting about having a tactile connection with nature and as a child I spent hours climbing trees or blazing a trail through waist high fields of grass. One of my favourite pastimes was making daisy chains and I would carefully select each flower and work its stem into a growing cascade of white and yellow. Even now wild flowers still hold a great appeal, their delicate petals and whimsical features set them aside from the solid form of garden begonias, delphiniums and the like.
This year, I decided to allow the lawn at the rear of my garden to grow long and I now have a small area that resembles a mini-meadow. At the moment, it is a glorious perfusion of colour. Frothy yellow heads of ladies bedstraw rise above the dusty plum red fescue grasses and pale pink cuckoo flowers quiver as the wind catches the spiky green heads of the crested dog’s tail. Other flora bearing magical names such as common mouse ear, birds- foot trefoil and fritillary also hide amongst the hues of green.
Meadows can support a huge range of wildflowers and grasses but are also home to a plethora of bees, butterflies and other crop pollinators. In turn, meadow dwelling invertebrates provide a rich food source for visiting reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and of course birds. Lesser known qualities of these species rich areas are their environmental capabilities of carbon storage, water retention and flood prevention. Many of the fauna and flora that thrive in meadows would be unable to survive in other areas.
On our reserve, we have a small area of reed bed that has been cleared to allow dainty marsh orchids to become established here. Turning a corner of the boardwalk to see an area of willowy grasses peppered with vibrant pinks southern marsh orchids and ragged robins is a breathtaking surprise, but sadly short lived as these flowers do not bloom beyond the middle of July.
Much of our national meadow land has been lost over recent decades to farming, housing developments and urbanisation. Around 2% of meadows that existed in the 1930s remain today – that’s nearly 7.5 million acres! Remaining areas are still vulnerable and under threat but conservation organisations are working diligently to restore these important grasslands. This year, on National Meadows Day, we are celebrating these amazing habitats with a day of family friendly activities. Visitors are invited to come along on Saturday, July 2, and take part in a Meadow Trail walk and children can make a mini-meadow to take home.
For more information contact www.rspb.org.uk/titchwell marsh or www.magnificentmeadows.org.uk