Monday, June 25, 2012

Meadow magic

Meadow magic
Meadows buzzing with insects, a kaleidoscope of colour, are just a nostalgic memory. They don’t exist any more. Or do they? Just back from Slovenia, having seen the most astonishingly beautiful meadows, four of us decided to see what a Welsh meadow had to offer.

The National Trust’s Plas Newydd estate, on Anglesey, decided to open one of its meadows to the public, offering two guided walks per day over a five day period, from 23 to 27 June. Visitors pass an impressive bank of solar panels, and walk along carefully mown walks through a hay meadow. I cannot imagine any visitor not being impressed by what we saw.

Dandelion-like Cat’s ears and yellow rattle contrast with thousands of orchids, ranging from pale pink to deep purple. Most are common spotted orchids, but there are also hundreds of northern marsh orchids and hybrids of the two. But it is the handsome white cylinders of greater butterfly orchids that really take the breath away.

Ten years ago a visitor reported finding five greater butterfly orchids, a species for which there has never been a definite Anglesey record before, in the meadow. The National Trust took advice on how to manage the site, and implemented a regime of late hay cutting and grazing. It has done the trick; this rare orchid has multiplied fivefold. You don’t have to go to Sovenia after all to be wowed by a wildflower meadow.

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