England’s lost Wildflower Meadows are back! Nostalgic dreams of elysian meadow fields are becoming real as Coronation Meadows spread and mini- meadows appear in gardens everywhere.
The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;Psalm 65:12-13
the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.’
Fields all over the country are beginning to ‘shout for joy and sing‘ as they turn into wildflower meadows full of forgotten names of wildflowers, grasses and orchids. Names like sweet vernal grass (with its vanilla scent), lady’s bedstraw, rest harrow, eyebright are coming back again. Traditional methods are returning as farmers re-discover the rich value of hay for winter feeding for livestock. There’s a return of old fashioned hay-time happiness and a sweet smell of new mown hay in the air!
The Coronation Meadows Scheme
With only 3% of our traditional wildflower meadows remaining, conservationists and gardeners are trying to do something to improve the situation. But to be effective on the larger scale depends on the help of farmers, local councils, large landowners and public bodies like Plant Life, the Wildlife Trust and the National Trust.
To mark the 60th Anniversary of our late Queen’s Coronation in 2013, the King, with Plant Life, proposed a Coronation Meadows project to identify flagship ancient Coronation Meadows in each county in Britain. Currently over 90 of these have been created as an inspirational public resource and a seed bank for new meadows.
Some famous meadows include Muker Meadows in the Pennines, Joan’s Hill Meadow in the Wye Valley and the 30 year old meadows at the King’s own Highgrove Estate. One series of local Coronation meadows was begun in 2015 by RBG Kew Gardens at its Wakehurst Place site here in Sussex.
The above photo shows the britishwildflowers.co.uk seed mix I’m using in my next meadow plot, taken from specially selected old meadow sites in the Weald area of Sussex and Kent, including one of our local Coronation Meadows. Pictured here are Sweet vernal Grass, Oxeye daisy, Dyers greenwood and Knapweed. I have also included some of chilternseeds‘ Royal Mix from the King’s Highgrove estate for my own mini ‘coronation meadow’!
Now we shall wait and see!
This Weald Mix comes from Sussex fields where the beautiful Common Spotted Orchid grows. What a thrill it would be if it turned up in one of my plots!
‘See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.‘Words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel 6
Traditionally, late July-early August was the time to cut the meadows for hay for cattle feed in winter. While scything his own farm meadow John Louis-Stempel writes:
‘Meadowland – the private life of an English field’ by John Louis-Stempel. One of the very popular books based on John’s small traditional farm in Herefordshire during the seasons. His chapter on haymaking in his own field is delightful, including his care in leaving uncut islands in the field where there were still birds nesting.
‘Robert Frost in ‘Mowing’ declared scything to be ‘the sweetest dream that labor knows’. My long scythe too whispers to the earth and leaves the hay in rows.
…….. John Clare found his poems in the fields. Sometimes I find words. There is nothing like working land for growing and reaping lines of prose.’
There is so much history of traditional English rural culture and folk law in these ancient meadows. Our novels, poetry and art are full of them. Many flowers have several local names each linked to its own part of the countryside. They are the stuff of dreams and we wish the Coronation Meadows Scheme every success.
Watch a new meadow being created on a farm scale in North Wales and here in Sussex (See below) :
The top featured photo of a meadow in West Yorkshire was taken by Nigel Homer – geograph.
Thank you for visiting – Are there any special meadows near you?
2 thoughts on “The Meadow Makers”
Wonderful to hear of the meadow projects in your country, Richard. Much of the same is happening here in the U.S. – the interest in pollinator gardens and native plantings has seemed to reach a turning point. I have been attending a weekly webinar on pollinator gardens that has attracted over 10,000 people viewing via computers – so happy to see a path opening to saving our beautiful earth and provide life to all of God’s creatures. Your scriptural references are so on point – the truths are ancient, aren’t they?
Good to hear of the growing interest in bringing wildlife more into US gardens, Llyn. We’re specially heartened here by the increasing involvement of farmers, larger landowners, local and national parks in the return of traditional English flower-filled hay-meadows with all the benefits they bring.