A flower meadow

We went Sunday walking today, although we chose a hot, humid day, where the air was hardly moving and there didn’t seem to be enough oxygen. We set off from home just after 10.00a.m., intending to walk to the pub at Foxham for a lunchtime pint, followed by a picnic lunch.
The air was heavy and after last night’s heavy shower the ground was quite muddy, especially under trees where there was deep shade. Emerging from the wood we had a pleasant enough stroll across the well tended farm of a local “squire” whose ornamental grounds are well mown. Lying at the side of a grassy path we spotted a hare, who took off with great speed as we approached, black tipped ears bobbing as he ran. At little further, in a small pond around the roots of an old oak tree we saw a mallard duck with 10 newly hatched ducklings, all bobbing after her like tiny bath ducks.
The next part of the walk took us across 5 largish fields where the hay crop was ready for mowing. It was wet from the rain and was as difficult to walk through as shifting sand or water, the grass stems grabbing around your feet and making the uphill stretches feel quite challenging.
The hay meadows, mostly sewn with rye grass, gave way to a fabulous wildflower meadow, managed under the Countryside Stewardship scheme. The contrast with the monoculture of the hay fields, this was a meadow not only rich in grass species, but abundant with wildflowers too. The pictures show some of the highlights:

Yellow bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) with a day flying Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae). I used to collect the caterpillars of these moths when I was girl and keep them in jam jars, feeding them on ragwort. They are a most exciting orange and black stripy affair! The moths are Britain’s most poisonous moth, but as I’ve never had the urge to eat one, that’s never been a worry.

These 2 pictures show a beautiful wildflower (Centaurea cyanus) -the cornflower or Bachelor’s buttons, with a few of the million buttercup neighbours they have. I found out that the name Bachelor’s buttons comes from old folklore which explains cornflowers were worn by young men in love; if the flower faded too quickly, it was taken as a sign that the man’s love was unrequited. (Wikipedia)

And this is one of the summer’s loveliest simple flowers-Moondaisies or Ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare), each flower about 2 inches across and a real summer highlight. This is the plant traditionally stripped of its petals by girls playing “he loves me, he loves me not,” but I always just used the little lawn daisies.

And finally, one of the last of this year’s crop of orchids,. I think this is a Spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata) but there are several varieties on this site and they seem to hybridise freely.

The reward of our walk was the Foxham Inn where we enjoyed some well earned liquid refreshment, Rob enjoying a pint of bitter intriguingly named Cottage Whippet. I sometimes wonder how many pints the namers of some of these beers had drunk when they were working on the task!

The return walk was hot and tiring-those hay fields were just as hard, but on arriving at home I collected the first of the strawberries, which we had with cream. Delicious.


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