Among the farmers’ fields of my local corner of agricultural East Anglia, are reclaimed chalky grasslands. Aswell as roadside and field-side verges, there are also entire swathes of land turned over to meadows, providing essential havens for biodiversity. Grasslands rich in wildflowers provide cover, shelter and food for a wide range of invertebrates and other animals, including amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and ground-nesting birds. Meadows (as well as wetlands and peat bogs) should be a nature conservation priority; nearly all have been lost in the past century.
A grassland field near where I live was given back to meadow 10-12 years ago, and was seeded with wildflowers at the time. It is now rich in a plethora of species of plant life and home to innumerable vertebrates and invertebrates.
I’ve spotted the early colonisers such as fireweed, as well as succession plants, field scabious, knapweeds, alfalfa, and sainfoin.
Red and white clover, ragwort, hogweed, yarrow, wild carrot, wild parsnip, plantains, barnyardgrass, and vervain.
I’ve also found creeping thistle, hawkweed oxtongue, vetch and mallow, and shrubs such as brambles, vibernum, guelder rose and dogwood.
Butterflies have been abundant there this year, as well as woodlice, crickets,snails, ladybirds and soldier beetles. Skylarks shelter in the brush.
It is a truly glorious, rich, important, scruffy looking piece of land with secrets and new detail revealed at every turn. I was also lucky enough to meet an older lady out walking one day who shared my affection for this place and told me that this gently sloping hill towards the river used to be a medieval settlement. I love it all the more now and am so grateful for that chance encounter.