Martins’ Meadows, Woodbridge
A hidden cluster of meadows in an otherwise intensively farmed landscape. These three meadows are among the few flower-rich hay meadows still left in Suffolk. As they have never been fertilised, sprayed or drained, the site supports a wide range of wildflowers. In spring and early summer, visitors can enjoy superb displays, including early-purple and green-winged orchids (see 'Species to spot' below). In autumn the meadows bloom once more, this time with meadow saffron. Most of the hedges enclosing the site are hundreds of years old and contain many different species of trees and shrubs including field maple, hazel, hawthorn and spindle. They are maintained by rotational coppicing or laying, in which sections are periodically cut to the ground, encouraging them to re-grow and thicken to produce a dense hedge that is good for wildlife.
Mr Martin - who gave his name to these meadows - was a local farmer and still has family in the parish. He owned these meadows and a number of others in Monewden parish and neighbouring Otley parish, all of which are now Sites of Special Scietific Interest (SSSIs).
Parking is available on the entrance track, but please ensure gateway remains free. Please note ground conditions can be soft during wet periods
Header images (above) © Steve Aylward
Species to spot
Early purple orchid
Best time to see: April - June
Often arriving with the bluebell, this early orchid has a wonderful scent, not dissimilar to lily-of-the-valley and is the "long purple" of Ophelia's garland, referred to by Gertrude in Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Best time to see: May
The jester-like motley of its green and purple flowers gives this orchid its scientific name: morio, meaning 'fool'. It can sometimes be confused with the early-purple orchid but does not have spots on its leaves.
Best time to see: April - May
Once this chequered flower filled flooded hay meadows in their thousands but modern agricultural practices - particularly draining land in order to grow crops - has led to a sharp decline. Image © Plantlife/Beth Halski.
Best time to see: All year.
Its silent flight and piercing screech have earnt it names like 'ghost owl' and 'death owl'. Able to hunt both night and day its heart-shaped face directs high-frequency sounds, helping it to find its prey. Image © Les Binns.
A small breed which often grows two pairs of horns. Their wool is coarse and black, fading to brown in sunlight and grey with age. Able to thrive in rough grazing conditions, they are good choice for controlling scrub. Image © Adam Somerville/CC BY-SA