The Wildlife Trusts and Fancott Meadows

Last Saturday we made our third visit to Fancott Meadows, a Coronation Meadow which is managed by the BCN Wildlife Trust. This time we went along with our local Wildlife Trust group led by Graham Bellamy. The forecast was rain and I had packed my camera into a waterproof bag, as we arrived in the carpark I realised I had left the bag and camera on the kitchen counter top at home.

Fancott Meadow

Fancott Meadows

That turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the photos I took on my phone were so appalling it meant we had to visit again late Tuesday afternoon, the sun shone and some of the Butterflies we had hoped to see on the grey overcast Saturday morning were now enjoying the sunshine and flitting through the meadows.

Common Blue

Common Blue

Fancott was bought by the Trust in 2007 from a local retiring farmer, horses had been grazing these fields, now Red Poll cattle and Hebridean Sheep are brought on at specific times to graze the meadows, we are told this is a more sympathetic way to manage the meadows both for plants and the wildlife. The old method of cutting the meadows would have removed the invertebrates habitat in one fell swoop.

Cuckoo Spit on Black Knapweed

Cuckoo Spit on Black Knapweed

But for our cool summer, the Black Knapweed would usually be in flower by now. Cuckoo spit is the secretion of Froghopper nymphs, nothing to do with the bird. The nymphs live inside the “spit” until ready to fledge as the Froghopper insect.

Yorkshire Fog

Holas lanatus Yorkshire Fog – the soft and very tactile flowers open and dance in the breeze

There were swathes of Yellow Rattle – Rhinanthus minor which produce tiny seeds that rattle around in the papery brown calyx, hence the common name. Its a hemiparasite, its roots grow into the roots of its neighbours, usually grasses taking their nutrients.

Yellow Rattle

Yellow Rattle

The meadows are divided into two, with wooden gates and traditional hedging forming the boundaries. The second is a flood plain meadow and supports Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria, as its edging towards invasive the Trust are monitoring its spread, if allowed to take over, other plants of interest would be crowded out. In flower and en-masse its quite a sight, right now its a little drab. The plant was used as a flavouring in Mead, hence its common name.



There were Orchids, Heath, Common and a Frog Orchid, not a looker but a rarity.

Frog Orchid Coeloglossum viride

Frog Orchid Coeloglossum viride

Our native Marsh Thistle distinguished by their cluster heads were the tallest plants towering above the other meadow plants and can reach up to 200cms tall.

Marsh Thistle Cirsuim palustre

Marsh Thistle Cirsuim palustre

Ragged Robin is nectar rich we waited a while for one of the Bees to land, but they seemed to prefer the Marsh Thistle on Tuesday.

Ragged Robin Silene flos-cuculi

Ragged Robin Silene flos-cuculi

As we neared the end of our walk through the meadows we saw a small patch of Corn cleavers they have declined dramatically in the last 60 years, modern agricultural methods have done for it and this little plant is now very rare and classified as critically endangered.

Corn Cleavers Galium tricornutum

Corn Cleavers Galium tricornutum

The Wildlife Trusts are made up of 47 individual Trusts, collectively their mission is dedicated to protect and preserve wildlife and wild places. Lobbying the government to improve weak legislation and encouraging volunteers to be active and engage with our natural world. Our local Flitvale group are a lovely bunch of folk, sharing knowledge and their company, with some wonderful speakers and walk leaders, often for the cost of £1.00.

Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis

Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis

Last year we were to early to see Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis in flower, its a glorious sight. What a tragedy that so many of these wonderful meadows have been lost, once these would have been a common sight and now they are a rarity.

40 thoughts on “The Wildlife Trusts and Fancott Meadows

    • I have ‘Harrap’s Wild Flowers’ book which says its absent as a meadow native wildflower from most of the South of England, and in the meadows last week up here in Bedfordshire there was comparatively little. I’d like to grow this at home too, it really was very pretty.

  1. Beautiful post, Julie! ‘Right up my street’ as they say! I must try to find the time to go on a guided tour with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. I’m so pleased you returned to the meadows on a sunny day as the photos are stunning!

    • Our local group have some wonderful talks throughout the winter months and some really enjoyable walks in the summer months, its definitely one of our favourite things to do. We’ve learnt so much too.

  2. An excellent post, Julie and stunning photos. You’re so right that it’s a sad, sad fact that so many individual plants and more broadly, native ecosystems are lost to development and poor management. But thank you for this tour and I’m glad to see the area being restored.

    • The statistics make really grim reading Tina, in my own lifetime so much has changed for the worse, heaven knows what our children will inherit. I truly hope with enough encouragement from organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts a difference can be made.

  3. how nice to have to go twice Julie 😉 lovely photo’s, I love the photo of the common blue butterfly, it is said they are on the Hebrides but so far they have eluded me, Frances

    • Yes, the site is a little remote so my husband met me there, he went from stressed work mode to utterly chilled after a couple of hours watching plants and wildlife. I’ve read the Common Blue is still quite common, hope you do get to spot one Frances.

  4. Unimproved grassland is such a rare habitat in England now and it is such a pity as they are such diverse habitats. Like so much of our natural habitats they is so easy to destroy and virtually impossible to restore. So thank you for encouraging everyone to support their local Wildlife Trusts and lobby for more protection and not less.

  5. What a beautiful meadow. I am glad you went back with your camera. I get so excited when I see wild orchids, the Frog orchid is a beauty. A great shot of the blue butterfly.
    Froghopper Nymphs? I was told as a child that cuckoo spit was goblins’ bogeys. I believed that for a long time. Obviously goblins must have had terrible colds and no handkerchiefs.

    • Haha, And it looks like Goblin’s bogeys! There are not enough hours in the day at this time of year, so many plants to see, I am beginning to appreciate Orchids more and can see why you get so excited.

  6. Back in the Dark Ages Julie when I attended agricultural collage, Yorkshire Fog was a weed grass, along with many others, to be replaced with the more productive ryegrass. The farmer who I worked for as an apprentice would not plough up his river meadows and reseed with modern ryegrass mixtures because he knew that the old established varieties would survive the floods. Man seems to have too constantly relearn the old wisdoms! It is lovely to have wild flower meadows to walk through and study the wild life within them.

    • Your farmer sounds a very wise man indeed, on the way to the meadows, we walked past a Rye Grass field used to produce Hay, our walk leader pointed out the herbicide use on Buttercups within that farmers field. Interesting to hear about Yorkshire fog surviving the floods, Mother nature clearly knows best.

  7. The meadows are such a wonderful habitat. Its one of the things that I miss about the UK – the grasslands in most of Australia have a lot more tough grasses and fewer flowering plants. Beautiful photos!

    • I imagine with the space there a far more natural habitats in Australia, ours are diminishing over here, it makes those we have seem even more precious. The Wildlife Trust have another initiative “Living Landscapes” where they aim to connect preserved areas up, forming bigger spaces and corridors of protected areas.

  8. Hard to believe these meadows filled with a farmer’s “weeds” would ever become a rarity. They’re such vibrant, beautiful homes to so many creatures and your photos really do them justice! I’m kind of glad you forgot your camera on the first visit!

      • The only wildflower meadows I have ever noticed have been either at high altitudes or along the Northern coasts. Most other parts of the country are ruled by prairie which gets much taller and comes into bloom later in the summer. Along the frequently mown highway margins a few introduced wildflowers such as oxeye daisy take over but for the most part plants such as goldenrod take over completely.
        Texas might be an exception. Everything dies down in the summer heat, but in late spring the bluebonnets and so many other wildflowers make for absolute sheets of color!

      • I’m actually in Pennsylvania now, where meadows quickly turn to woodland, but lived in Texas for two years. The masses of bluebonnets and other wildflowers are really just as amazing as you would think!

  9. Interesting post. Definitely worth going back with your camera. Loved the Sanguisorba and Galium shots. Funnily enough I went to a BCN Wildlife Trust guided walk through a chalk pit on Wednesday evening (and I plan to go back with my camera when the flowers are open). They were a really nice bunch of people doing great work.

    • We are in adjoining counties, maybe our paths will cross on one of their walks. At this time of year there are so many wonderful wildflowers to see!

  10. I love your photos of this wildlife meadow!You caught the softness. I just rode through one yesterday here in USA with some friends they have growing and it was amazing. We got off our bikes and looked at the delicate flowers-you really caught them quite well. I agree those smart phone cameras just have nothing to offer when it comes to nature:-) great job-a delight to read and see:-)

    • Your bike ride sounds like a lovely route to cycle on Robbie, We used to cycle a lot here but have got more in the habit of walking, we should get back on our bikes! 🙂

      • We live in the Quad Cities which is the only place where the Mississippi River runs East to West. We ride a loop through the Iowa side and over the bridge to the Illinois side. That day my friends decided to do the entire loop and it came out to 38 miles-YIKES-I have to admit I was sore but the scenery was lovely:-)

  11. Lovely photos as always, Julie, and I really like the Great Burnet flower heads. I wonder if you’ve ever seen it in a garden planting scheme? Also interesting about the Meadowsweet becoming too dominant – we’ll have to watch it in our wet meadows, though at the NBGW recently, we were told that Elizabeth the First requested Carmarthenshire Meadowsweet was cut as a strewing plant and brought up to her palaces, since it was particularly sweet…. so maybe someone should think of harvesting and selling it in some way???

    • Yes, I have read that about strewing Meadowsweet, it would be very interesting to go back in time to see how life was led then, but wouldn’t like to be the person pandering to dignitaries. I feel I have seen Great Burnett or something similar in planting schemes. Even before flowering its very striking.

    • Oh Amelia, isn’t it sad when a wildflower meadow is so rare, I imagine in France there is far less destruction as you have much more space for houses.

      • It is true that there the population in France is not crushed into such a small area as in the UK but the farming practices are similar. I am only looking at things in my own are which is agricultural. Huge fields for vines, cereals, rape seed, tobacco, maize and sunflower with the wooded areas decreasing as they are absorbed slowly into the fields under culture.

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