Between Backwell Lake and the edge of Nailsea is a secret meadow. When I stumbled upon it nearly ten years ago, at the beginning of my adventure as a naturalist, I wasn’t sure if I was allowed in, but I slipped through the gate and, as there was a path through the long grass, I decided it wouldn’t do any harm to explore. I was amazed by what I found. The memory is rather hazy now, but I can clearly recall the orchids, more than I had ever seen in one place, and blue butterflies.
I now know that the meadow is a nature reserve managed by Avon Wildlife Trust. It has been chosen as a Coronation Meadow to mark the 60th anniversary of the Coronation. A week or so ago I was asked if I would consider taking on the role of Voluntary Warden. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse!
I have been back many times since my initial discovery, but on Wednesday afternoon, when I went to take stock, I felt a sense of ownership and looked with new eyes. It was hot and sunny. The first thing that struck me was the noise of the grasshoppers. I could hear them all around me, not just individuals, but an enveloping blanket of sound. As I stepped forward scores of them jumped from under my feet, I had never seen so many in one place before. After spending ten minutes or so trying to photograph them, I realised I had neither the time nor the patience, and turned my attention to the damselflies which turned out to be far more co-operative. They weren’t quite as numerous as the grasshoppers, but were still there in vast numbers. I recognised two varieties, blue tailed and common blue, but spotting a rarity amongst them, even if I had the identification skills, would be like looking for a needle in a haystack! In addition to the damselflies there were three impressive dragonflies engaged in aeriel manoeuvres overhead. I am clearly going to have to get to grips with this beautiful group of insects! I’m more familiar with butterflies, there were no blues on this occasion, but I saw meadow browns, skippers, a marbled white and a distant comma.
The reserve is quite small, only about six acres, but it is very varied, and has damp patches caused by springs. It is bounded by mature hedges, and there is a small pond on the west border. As I walked round I recognised knapweeds, ladies bedstraw, yellow rattle, ox-eyed dasies, fleabane, and drifts of meadowsweet, but there were many flowering plants I couldn’t identify, and I didn’t have a clue about the grasses! I have wanted to improve my botany for some time, and there is certainly plenty to keep me occupied here. It will be a steep learning curve, but I will have Avon Wildlife Trust and knowledgable friends to guide me, and as they say you are never too old…
I’m looking forward to the journey!