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Snake’s head fritillary walk

Cricklade North Meadow NNR, Wiltshire

01 July 2016

Around 80% of the UK North Meadowsnake’s head fritillary Fritillaria meleagris population is to be found at Cricklade North Meadow, one of the finest examples of lowland hay meadow in Europe. A guided tour of this NNR, SAC and SSSI, led by Reserve Manager Aidan Fallon and Emma Rothero from the Floodplain Meadows Partnership, was always bound to be an informative event.

Lowland unimproved neutral grassland is the most threatened type of grassland habitat in the UK, having been reduced to less than 1,500 hectares by modern agricultural methods and gravel extraction. North Meadow’s 45 hectares, that include the nationally rare MG4 grassland, are carefully managed to maintain this scarce habitat. MG4 is most commonly associated with meadow foxtail – greater burnet community and is found in alluvial meadows that are seasonally flooded, like North Meadow.

During our guided tour, 23 South West CIEEM members were introduced to management practices used in the reserve such as the early hay cut and collection of wildflower seeds, including the fritillary, for sowing on neighbouring fields that are being managed to restore them to unimproved hay meadows. Emma demonstrated the unique geology of this site by taking a soil core sample to show how the varying clay and gravel depths influence the plant communities, and we had a chance to practice our botany skills on the diverse species present.

North Meadow is a site of important scientific research carried out by the Floodplain Meadows Partnership, a project established in 2007 to help promote the conservation and restoration of lowland hay meadows through long term monitoring and management. The Floodplain Meadows Partnership’s new technical handbook ‘Floodplain Meadows – Beauty and Utility’ is available as a hard copy at www.floodplainmeadows.org.uk or as a free digital download.

Author: Misho Baxendale

North Meadow

North Meadow

 

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