Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Friday 30 June 2017

Meadow appreciation

Did you know that July 1st is National Meadows Day? so this blog post is aptly timed.

For the past 2 years I have designed Christmas cards for the wildflower charity Plantlife, and as a thank you I was offered a tour of one of their nature reserves. The nearest (70 miles away) is Seaton Meadows, and today I went there to meet Plantlife's Nature Reserves Manager Joe Costley.

Seaton Meadows nature reserve is in the small county of Rutland in the East Midlands, the 28 acres of meadows are in the Welland Valley and lie under the longest brick built viaduct in Britain. Architectural and plant heritage in one place. The reserve is dedicated to the memory of Geoff Hamilton who presented Gardeners' World on BBC TV and was on Plantlife's Advisory Council.

Joe explained that just over half the meadow land is flood-meadow and this is where those plants special to the now rare water-meadow habitat can be found ... such as Greater Burnet, Pepper Saxifrage and Meadow Rue.

As we walked round the meadows Joe pointed out that the moisture levels, the areas that have silt deposits from flooding, the hummocks and the dips, each support a slightly different mix of plants. So the meadow isn't a uniform colour and texture, it is a blending of areas different grasses and herbs.

Looking across the meadow at low level you can see the different heights of the plants, the dots of purple Common Knapweed and yellow Meadow Vetchling among the green grass; pale grass seed heads sway above; and even taller, the branching stems of the Greater Burnet with their burgundy bobble-like flower-heads.

As we walked through the dense thatch of grasses and herbs, we could hear the now dry seed-pods of Yellow Rattle. This is the plant that is included in 'meadow' seed mixtures because it is a partial parasite ... its roots attach to the grasses roots and weaken them, so other meadow herbs can flourish.

After my guided tour I decided to stay a while, I'd brought with me a packed lunch, a folding chair and my sketchbook and paints. I selected a pitch on one of the hummocks in the water meadow and settled down to look, listen and sketch.
I began to hear birds singing, a Skylark rose up out of the grasses nearby and started its song directly above me, so loud! then gradually fading as it climbed into the sky.

Sitting on my low seat I could see the movement of dozens of butterflies ... Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Small Tortoiseshells. I spotted a Burnet Moth, its red and iridescent indigo wings were like jewels. The sound of bees buzzing was all around me. Mainly Red-tailed Bumblebees and some Carder Bees.

Drawing the scene meant looking even closer at the colours and textures; the swaying mix of plant shapes; and at the vast man-made viaduct striding across the valley.

So, find a meadow ... it needn't be a special nature reserve or large. Just a wild patch of grasses and flowers. Sit still and let the meadow tell you its story.