I've only rediscovered the concept of a meadow in the last 2 years. As I've lived in the city since I was 7 and had no particular reason to be walking through fields I think I forgot that there really was such a thing. On a visit to Runnymead in the county of Surrey in England a couple of years ago I nearly fainted when we came upon a huge meadow. Of course I immediately had the urge to run merrily through it and then throw myself on the ground. Surrounded by tall waving grass, hidden from view and shielded from the wind I lay there in the sun and fell in love there and then with meadows.
This meadow is maintained by the National Trust and according to them "a hay meadow is one of the richest habitats that nature can provide". The meadow is left to thrive until sometime in the summer when it is cut for hay. As far as I know, if the meadow was not cut every year then trees would eventually take over the area. This habitat would obviously support wildlife too but a meadow will support a lot more pollinating insects.
Since this encounter in Runnymead I've been searching out other meadows that can be easily accessed. There is one in the grounds of Birr castle but by the time we got there last year it had been mown so we will be taking a visit up there shortly in the hope of seeing it this year. On the farm where Chris works there are several meadows all of which are chock full of flowers and grasses.
This is one about a month ago. Since then everything has grown a lot taller.
Here we have clover and buttercups among the grasses. These meadows may be cut in the next few days as the weather is promised to be dry for long enough to cut the grass, dry it and bail it up. Jim may also decide to take a chance and wait for another month or two before cutting it as he will get more in this case.
Two days ago I was standing looking at the beautiful spread of daisies that are congregating in the bottom part of the garden. I had decided that I couldn't put off the grass cutting any longer but then I noticed that there were some buttercups coming up too and I could not bring myself to cut them down. So I decided that I would make my own mini meadow.
I left a semicircle of lawn untouched and so I still have most of the daisies left. We rarely walk on this part of the garden anyway and I am always trying to find ways of using the lawn mower less. Apparently petrol mowers spew out 40 times the amount of fumes per minute as a car does!! This, I only discovered last year and so I have been leaving longer times between mowing as well as trying to reduce the area of lawn. We have an extra vegetable patch this year which helps.
One of my favourite things about meadows is the way the flowers and grasses sway gently in the wind. There is something really beautiful about thousands, perhaps millions of flowers all bobbing about almost in unison. It's as if you can suddenly see every breath of wind that passes through the area. Even though our little meadow is still only short, there was plenty of swaying to keep me amused yesterday.
Some of the grasses already have seed heads and as I said the buttercups are coming up now and these are a lot taller than daisies.
I love daisies because they remind of making daisy chains as a child.
Buttercups remind me of running around the fields surrounding our house in Mayo when I was about 5 or 6. We used to hold the buttercups up to our necks to see the yellow light shining on our skin.
These grasses are new to me so I'm curious to see what they do and who they attract to the meadow.
Here you can see the beginnings of 1 - dandelions, 2 - silver weed and 3 - clover. There are some other flowers coming up that I don't recognise yet but as they appear I'll take photos and add them in here.
Apart from the fact that I love meadows I can see that there is a strong reason to allow more of them to flourish in Ireland. Watching our tiny little meadow I have seen quite a lot of flying insects come and go. They take some pollen and continue on their way. There are also plenty spiders and beetles living in here. Unfortunately they are hard to photograph so I haven't got any of the little fellas to show you....yet. Surely with a bit of patience I can bond with some of the insects enough to convince them to stay still for a photo shoot.....or maybe not.
Well anyway, as our meadow progresses I will add more photos on the different flowers and grasses that can be supported by even a small area. If everyone left an area like this to flourish as a natural meadow there would be a hell of a lot more food around for the reducing populations of wildlife in this country. Having a mini meadow could even be educational for the kids as they study all the wild plants and insects that they may not get to encounter anywhere else.
If anyone else has a mini meadow I'd love to hear your stories and observations.