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.

Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet

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.

Wildflower Wednesday – Fancott Wood and Meadows – a Coronation Meadow

Meadow Buttercups Ranunculus acris

Sundays view – Fancott Meadows – Meadow Buttercups Ranunculus acris

The nearby river is lined with Willows and to escape the snowstorm of Willow pollen raining down in my own garden last Sunday, we made a visit to Fancott Meadow, managed by the wildlife trust and now designated as a Coronation Meadow

In 2012 Plantlife published a report Our Vanishing Flora highlighting the desperately sad statistic that in 75 years 97% of our meadows have been lost. 97% which means a miniscule 3% were left. Prince Charles the patron of Plantlife galvanised into action and to celebrate the Queens coronation set about organising the Coronation Meadows project, 60 meadows for 60 years of the Queens reign were identified across the UK at least one for each county.

With a threefold task, firstly to celebrate our rare surviving meadows, secondly to create new meadows with seed gathered from designated Coronation meadows and thirdly to encourage the public to discover and nominate new meadows known as Peoples Meadows.

Fancott meadow, an ancient meadow in Bedfordshire is reached by a public footpath tucked away behind a pub. Archie, always ready for a good walk came too. A few Hebridean sheep now graze the meadows, so Archie was soon back on a lead.

Archie

Archie en route to the meadows

We had previously visited last July when there were lots of Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria in full flower thriving in the damper areas but just beginning to form buds in late May.

Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria May

Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria in July

Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria in July

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was too early for Ragged Robin and Great Burnet – Sanguisorba officinalis and we had missed the Cowslips and Adders tongue fern, but lots of  Clovers, Vetch, Birds Foot Trefoils and early Meadowsweet amongst the Buttercups and we easily spotted Yellow Rattle which is a semi parasitic grassland annual, this little gem weakens tough grass growth, helping other wildflowers to thrive. I bought some seed earlier this year with a little project of my own in mind.

Yellow Rattle

Yellow Rattle

I am joining in with Gail at ClayandLimestone who hosts the Wildflower Wednesday meme on the the last Wednesday of each month. Please take a look there are lots of other Wildflower posts to enjoy and share.