Cowslip Meadow, Sheepleas, West Horsley
One of his original 284 national conservation sites, the Edwardian conservation pioneer Charles Rothschild described The Sheepleas as “The finest piece of entomological and botanical ground within thirty miles of London”.
Within this landscape, the two hectare Cowslip Meadow remains a gem today. The meadow is a well-loved local spring phenomenon, given the spectacular abundance of Cowslips. Following this display, a colourful and diverse range of chalk flora bloom throughout the summer months, including salad burnet, common rock-rose, oxeye daisy, pyramidal orchid, clustered bellflower, small scabious and horseshoe vetch.
Many butterfly species can be seen here, including common blue, green hairstreak, silver-washed fritillary, ringlets, and migrants such as the clouded yellow and painted lady. Other special meadow wildlife includes Roesel’s bush-cricket, rufous grasshopper and glow worms.
Coronation Cowslips: Accompany Sheepleas Ranger, Guy Kent, for a leisurely stroll around the Cowslip and Summerhouse meadows on Thursday 24th and Saturday 26th April. For more information visit Surrey Wildlife Trust
Header image (above) © M Waite
Species to spot
Best time to see: April - May
Easy to spot with its yellow cup-shaped flowers nodding at the end of tall stems. The name cowslip allegedly derives from ‘cowslup' - an old term for cowpat - since where the cow 'slupped' this flower was often found.
Marbled white butterfly
Best time to see: June - Aug.
A distinctive medium-sized white butterfly, with black-chequered markings, often be found feeding on purple flowers such as common knapweed. The caterpillars feed on grasses. Image © Adam Hincks/CC BY_SA
Best time to see: May - Sept.
A semi-parasitic flower, that feeds off nutrients in nearby grass roots. In doing so it helps restrict the vigorous grasses, allowing more delicate wildflowers to emerge. Its 'rattle' is from tiny seeds in their pods.
Surrey County Council