Sunday, 16 July 2017

Ragged Robin

There are always those who criticise. Many years ago, when I was privileged to be Chairman of the then Glamorgan Wildlife Trust, I pushed for the acquisition of Prior’s Wood and Meadow. We were offered half the wood, and the meadow, and this is what we bought. I was not so much bothered about the wood, but really had my eye on the meadow. Since the 1930s, the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows, mostly to intensive agriculture, and we have not escaped this decimation on Gower, but Prior’s Meadow remains intact. The labour intensive issue of managing the meadow was an issue at the time of purchase, but over the years volunteers have helped the Trust to take off the hay at the right time, thus ensuring its survival.

In high summer, I visit the meadow again. Access is at the end of a path bordering Fairwood Common in the village of Three Crosses, and I must walk through the wet woodland to get there.  It’s damp where the meadow meets the wood, and it was the ragged robin growing on these lower slopes that first caught my eye on a sunny June morning all those years ago. The ragged robin is still here, although many are fading now at the end of their flowering season. There are just a few other places on Gower that I’m confident of finding this signature species.  Other botanical treasures grow here; black knapweed, devil’s-bit scabious, yellow rattle and much more, and there are more than a hundred kinds of vascular plants growing in the meadow.

As I leave, I think of the project to create 60 ‘Coronation Meadows’ throughout the UK which celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. There’s a seed bank here that could be used to create another Prior’s Meadow somewhere else on Gower, and thankful that I persuaded the doubters who argued that the effort involved in taking off the hay from the meadow once a year was not worth it.

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