Swiss Cottage Meadow, Osborne House, East Cowes
"It is impossible to imagine
a prettier spot"
- Queen Victoria after visiting the grounds of Osborne House
Located in the grounds of Queen Victoria's royal residence, this is a small protected example of a typical north Wight dry neutral meadow. It is named after the nearby Swiss Cottage - a two storey detached dwelling that was built within the grounds of Osborne House at Prince Albert's instruction. He used it to teach the royal children gardening, cooking and basic economics. A new interactive exhibition telling the story of this Victorian royal childhood opens at the Swiss Cottage on 1st April 2014.
"The Swiss Cottage meadow is impressive in spring when lots of primroses are in bloom but for me, late May when the green winged orchids flower, is my favourite time of year"
- Toby Beasley, English Heritage's Head Gardener at Osborne
How to get there
1 mile SE of East Cowes off the A3021 (meadow accessible via Osborne House).
Species to spot
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.
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: June - Sept.
A pink pin-cushion-like flower which our ancestors believed cured scabies (hence "scabious"). It has short, stubby roots which - according to legend - were bitten off by the Devil to prevent its healing powers.