Slow Cotswolds

  • North Meadow is looking resplendent - a must-see natural phenomenon

    I have just returned from a visit this morning to North Meadow National Nature Reserve (pages 217-8) at Cricklade. This magnificent meadow is, to my mind, one of the must-see sights of the Cotswolds in spring - and this year, it is looking the best I have seen in six years.

    Why should you go? Although it's a traditional hay meadow that is managed, using traditional methods, by man, you could describe the sights of North Meadow as a natural phenonmenon. This 110-acre meadow, adjoining a youthful River Thames and with scenic views of St Sampson's Church in Cricklade, is home to 80% of the UK's fritillary 'population'. It is a wondrous sight.

    From a distance, the regal purple haze is heavenly. Up close, these fritillaries in number are simply mesmerising. This is one of those moment to which I allude, via the poem Leisure by W H Davies in my introduction to Slow Travel: The Cotswolds: one must find 'time to stand and stare'.

    The fritillaries last until the end of April but right now, I very much recommend you go as they are looking outstanding. The images here were taken today. In amongst are vibrant King Cups, lady's smock and swathes of cowslips. Orange-tip butterflies darted beside the Thames and a skylark was in fine voice overhead.

    The very best sections of the meadow are in the far north - the furthest to walk from Cricklade or the entrance on the B4553 - but the most rewarding.

    If you've time, stop by for a Fritillary tea in the pop-up tearooms on the north edge of Cricklade, right beside the River Thames. It's a popular fundraiser for the town and there are displays providing further detail about the meadow. The tearooms is open for the remainder of this weekend and the remaining weekends in April.

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