Witness Britain's wildflower meadows

Caroline Cassidy

Once a common sight in Britain's countryside, wildflower meadows are now a little harder to find, but a field awash with colour and buzzing with life is a truly beautiful sight and worth seeking out.

Where to see wildflower meadows
Where to see wildflower meadows

Pic: Getty

We take a look at what to see and some of the UK's best places to witness this natural beauty.

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Equipped with a host of weird and wonderful names, the wild flowers found in a traditional meadow create a burst of striking colours, from golden yellow, to bright reds, to dusky blues and purples. Ox-eye daisies, foxgloves, poppies, birdsfoot trefoils, betony, lady's smock, clover and thistle-like knapweeds are all commonly found. Harder to spot are the delicate, chequered flowers of the snakehead fritillary, and orchids such as the spotted variety or the aptly-named bee orchid. Keep your eyes peeled too for the blue pom-pom-like flowers of the devil's bit scabious. The flowers will, of course, vary depending the time of year - spring or summer - but if you are planning a visit to a meadow, a book of flowers will help you to identify the common and the more bizarre plant life you will see.

Given the sheer variety of flowers and plants on offer, meadows are unsurprisingly popular with a variety of insects. You will find butterflies aplenty, from tortoiseshells, peacocks and meadow browns, to orange tips, brimstones and dark green fritillaries. Moths are also attracted to meadow flowers, the most noticeable of which is the Burnet moth, a glossy black variety with striking red or yellow markings.

Bumblebees are a common sight, flying lazily from plant to plant gathering pollen, and if there is water nearby, you may also see dragonflies and damselflies.

With plenty of hiding places, not to mention food sources, animals both big and small can sometimes be spotted. If you're lucky you may see the head and ears of a roe deer rise above the long grass and tall flowers, while down below, field voles, mice and shrews enjoy the dense cover of the meadow plants.

They may not, however, escape the keen gaze of birds of prey, and it is always worth looking towards the sky as kestrel can often be seen hovering above meadows as they hone in on their next meal. Listen out, also, for the song of the skylark, a regular meadow visitor.

Where to see wildflower meadows
New Grove Meadow, Gwent
A history of traditional management has allowed these two sloping meadows to retain their colourful spring and summer displays, with yellow cowslips and purple orchids appearing in spring, and June turning the fields to a haze of pink common spotted orchids. Autumn provides its own intrigue in the form of some unusual fungi, including the rare pink waxcap.

Clattinger Farm, Wiltshire
Traditional farming methods dating back to the 1950s, where the hay is cut in July allowing flowers to seed, means Clattinger Farm is home to a number of the rare species of wildflowers, including burnt orchid, meadow saffron and adders-tongue fern. The pretty snakeshead fritillary is a common sight in June.

Carr House Meadows, Sheffield
A veritable riot of colour thanks to yellow rattle, clover, scabious, orchids and ragged robin, Carr House Meadows is lined with drystone walls and traditional hedgerows, making it a haven for meadow-loving wildlife. And since cattle are allows to graze some of the more robust and aggressive grasses, delicate species of wildflower are given space to grow, giving rise to a naturally rich and vibrant meadow.

Rose End Meadows, Derbyshire
A collection of 11 small fields, Rose End Meadows have never been treated with artificial fertiliser or herbicide, and as such, are alive with wildflowers including cowslips, bugle, knapweed and betony, along with a beautiful midsummer display of pyramidal and common spotted orchids. What's more, the nearby woodland provides an impressive carpet of bluebells and wood anemone.
Sheepleas, Surrey
Set within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sheepleas occupies 300 cares of chalky slopes on the North Downs. A combination of woodland and grassland, it is home to a diverse range of wildlife, and has been designated a Sit of Special Scientific Interest. Majoram, eyebright, milkwort and wild orchids thrive on the chalky soil, and it's a great place to spot some of the UK's more unusual butterflies, with over 30 species taking advantage of the plant life.

If you are keen to visit a wildflower meadow in your area, visit the Wildlife Trust's website for more ideas.

Is there a wildflower meadow near you? Let us know below...