The first signs of spring

After a winter spent largely in the office it was a pleasure to get out and about and see some meadows this week. A trip to Norfolk to look at potential areas to create new meadows at the Queen’s Sandringham estate afforded the opportunity to pop in at a number of county Coronation Meadows on the way from Plantlife’s Salisbury base. Whilst our meadows are generally far from their best at this time of year there were encouraging first signs of the colourful displays to come.

At Cambridgeshire’s Coronation Meadow (the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire-owned Chettisham Meadow) the cowslips were beginning to flower in number. I always find it heartening to see the early spring wildflowers. Their irresistible resolve that the short cold days of winter are behind us never fails to provide reassurance of the better days to come. (Image above - Cowslips poking through at Chettisham meadow, the Coronation Meadow for Cambridgeshire)

Unfortunately that more modern yellow harbinger of spring in the countryside, the crop oil seed rape, fails to inspire the same emotions. It is however far easier to find and I only had to look to the other side of the footpath from Chettisham Meadow to see it’s rather more robust and mundane display.

Image above - Oil seed rape in the field opposite

Thankfully cowslips remain a spring highlight at a number of our county Coronation Meadows, perhaps most famously in cowslip meadow at the Surrey County Council owned Sheepleas reserve. Surrey Wildlife Trust manage the reserve and the ranger is leading a ‘Coronation cowslips’ walk there in April. For details see Surrey Wildlife Trust. It is particularly apt as the cowslip is the county flower for Surrey.

If you need a springtime lift then you can get an idea of the wonderful display at cowslip meadow by checking its county page (see Related Pages below). Similarly Chettisham meadows' page shows a picture in late spring/early summer when the green-winged orchids appear. Both meadows are open to the public.

Dan Merrett, Coronation Meadows Project Manager