If you haven’t ventured into the British countryside recently, please stop reading this blog immediately and get out there!
If you wait a few weeks, I fear you’re in danger of missing the most vibrant display of spring flowers in years.
I have no idea what’s going on – perhaps spring came so late this year that nature needs to cram all its splendour into a very short period. Whatever the reason, the abundance of flora is amazing and quite dazzling.
Over the past few weeks, while we’ve been walking possible routes for inclusion in our forthcoming e-book (Walks from Castles: Gwent and the Marches), Harri and I have been astounded by the profusion of wild flowers. They are everywhere: whichever direction you look there are fields, slopes and borders crammed full of buttercups, daisies, wild parsley, bluebells and wild garlic. Our hedgerows are teeming with flowers and the vivid green of the grass is dazzling.
It’s all so beautiful and unexpected that every time we go hiking, I can’t stop commenting on the resplendence, in much the same vein as Bridget Jones when she inadvertently eats magic mushrooms and wades into the ocean on a high, swooning at everything in sight and sighing ‘Such lovely colours’ (The Edge of Reason: a hilarious book/film).
That’s exactly how I feel every time we go into the countryside… high on nature’s bountiful offerings.
Walking near Grosmont two weeks ago, we couldn’t work out why a distant field looked like it had an overnight dusting of snow – until we reached it and realised the ‘snow’ was actually a carpet of daisies.
On the Wye Valley Path, in woodland above Tintern Abbey, it was a similar story with wild garlic. As well as making the woods smell absolutely divine, the pretty white flowers covered every slope within eye’s reach.
Near Caldicot, the M4 motorway verge was absolutely gorgeous – scenery undoubtedly wasted on drivers whizzing past at 70 miles an hour but not on those of us who prefer to travel in the slow lane.
And the abundance of wild flowers doesn’t stop in the countryside. Our lawn has been covered with daisies, the flower-beds blue with forget-me-knots and there’s a really pretty pink flower spreading across the vegetable patch (still unplanted due to the slow, slow growth of my little seedlings).
With so much colour everywhere, you can imagine I was a little surprised to read that ‘a staggering 97% of meadows have been lost in the last 75 years’.
The claim was made in a report by Plantlife, which has been back in the news this week as Prince Charles launched his Coronation Meadows scheme.
Sadly, despite the abundance of some species, many have disappeared altogether since the Queen took the throne, e.g. field gentian, burnt orchid, royal fern, corn cleavers.
To prevent even more species vanishing from our countryside, Prince Charles’ scheme will create new wild flower meadows in 60 counties across the UK (60 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation). I must say I like this idea.
There are two aims: to identify one flagship wild flower meadow – a Coronation Meadow – in every county in the UK and to use these flagship meadows as source or ‘donor’ meadows to provide seed for the creation of new meadows in the same county.
A quick look at the website reveals that our nearest ‘Countryside Meadows’ are New Grove Meadows and New House Farm Meadow, both in Monmouth.
We have a walk from Monmouth Castle planned soon so I’ll be definitely be keeping a look out for these two meadows.