Weekend Wandering: Wildflowers

The fritillary's more common purple form


It's the May bank holiday and coincidentally peak flowering time for two of our most iconic spring wildflowers; fritillaries and English bluebells

It's a good year for the fritillaries at North Meadow in nearby Cricklade, so NAH and I headed out yesterday morning to see them. It's hard to show how marvellous this location is in a photograph as the fritillaries are small and there are dire warnings not to leave the marked footpaths so the flowers can get on with doing their thing.

North Meadow, Cricklade

We chose the blue route which is the longest walk around the meadow, around two miles in total. It doesn't encompass them all and soon we were walking amongst thousands of fritillaries, with a pale pinky, purple haze on the horizon showing there were thousands more still to see.

The white form of the fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris

It's a few years since we were last there, and I'm sure there were more white forms dotted amongst their darker cousins this time. I haven't managed to find what determines the variation: genetics, or environmental conditions, or both perhaps? It's a question to ponder for the future.

Not every year is a good year for fritillaries. In 2012 this vast meadow had just 5 flowers owing to 10 months of flooding the previous year, which seems to be the main factor affecting the number of blooms according to the interesting leaflet I picked up produced by the Floodplain Meadows Partnership. It's this organisation who lead the annual counts at North Meadow and elsewhere. At one point North Meadow held 80% of these wildflowers and still has the most for any location in the UK. Numbers are on the increase here and also elsewhere e.g. Iffley Meadows in Oxfordshire, where they've been helped by a change in land management practices. 

There's still time to visit to see them, though there were signs the flowers were just beginning to go over yesterday. In future years, it's worth keeping an eye on the Fritillary Watch website for the best time to go.

Thames footpath sign

If you're seeking a longer walk than the two miles we covered yesterday, North Meadow lies on the Thames National Footpath, or there's the charming town of Cricklade to explore - it frequently does well in the RHS Britain in Bloom competition, and won the Champion of Champions trophy in 2011.

The River Thames alongside North Meadow

Many of my friends posted photos of their visits to bluebell woods on Saturday. Britain has around half of the world's English bluebell population and now is the time to see them in their full glory. They visited West Woods near Marlborough and Bowood, which are noted for these flowers and are often on the 'best place to see' lists. Note, it is possible to see bluebells for free at Bowood via the public footpaths on the estate, though you may wish to pay to see the woodlands there, which are also noted for their rhododendrons and azaleas, with viewing limited to just a few weeks per year.

Bluebells along my walk near Pewsham

I'm happy to say I found some closer to home, made sweeter because I came across them unexpectedly on my walk. These formed a stream of bluebells bordering a footpath a couple of miles away from home. They show the hedgerow bordering the path is an ancient one as bluebells don't like disturbance.

Chippenham is blessed with a number of small woods where there will be more bluebells to brighten my day this week, particularly Mortimores Wood, Bird's Marsh and Vincients Wood. All are within an easy walk and it'll be great to simply step out the front door to see them.

Which wildflowers have you found recently?

I'm happy to add this post to Gail's Wildflower Wednesday at her invitation, even though I'm a little late to her party 😊

Comments

  1. One of my favourite flowers, but so delicate and fleeting - just (not) like me then. Vincients wood - that brings back memories of my boys building dens - good times.

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    1. Vincients Wood is on my list for a walk this week Mark. I'm checking up on all the local woods this week :)

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  2. How fortunate to have Cricklade on your doorstep VP. What a special site. I watched 'Countyfile' on Sunday. There was a feature on a visit that John Craven made to North Meadow where he interviewed one of the team of volunteers who surveys the meadow each year to count the fritillaries, measure them and assess their general state of health. The good news was that their numbers were growing at the time of his visit 😂

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    1. The good news is the trend is still on the increase Anna, according to the leaflet I linked to. It varies each year depending on the amount of flooding the year previously. The leaflet says they can also lie dormant for many years which is a great survival mechanism.

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  3. How lovely to see those fritillaries and see their abundance this year! And bluebells, lovely, too.

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    1. It's a wonderful time of the year for wildflowers Lisa. It was lovely to see you on Sunday albeit via Zoom :)

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  4. Lovely Spring post. I don’t think a bluebell Wood can be beaten for its natural beauty and the scent.

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    1. They're gorgeous this year Belinda, and it's been a personal delight to find them close to home where I only have to step out of my front door to find them.

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