Blog, News, Water Meadows Chronicles

The Water Meadow Chronicles, part 23

This is an exciting time for our Water Meadows. Spring is always a glorious time but , as our first picture shows,we have some new residents. Our kestrel story began a few months ago when it was decided that we might encourage both kestrels and owls to become residents if we put boxes up in No Mans Meadow. In early spring four boxes were installed and, while we feared we might be too late for this breeding season, it looks like one of the kestrel boxes is occupied. Fingers crossed.

Another exciting development cropped up a couple of weeks ago. We were invited to put together a submission for both the Bury in Bloom and the Anglia in Bloom competitions. We are competing in the wild flower category. Both text and pictures are to be included. The first attempt ran to about 400 words as well as pictures. Then I was reminded by the organiser that only 80 words would be accepted; would I, please, edit this down to 80 words? This was the most difficult editing task that I have tackled in many years.

The 80 word piece is as follows. 

In January and February there are swathes of Snowdrops, Winter Aconites and  Comfrey.

By March, the blue flowered  Green Alkanet and the white Few Flowered Garlic appear. 

In April, Bluebells and Cow Parsley appear. Soon a sea of Cow Parsley is swaying in the breeze. 

Around the ruined Charnel House we have recorded more than 100 plants in flower, including Bee Orchids. The pollinators are buzzing.

The Churchyard attracts locals, historians, walkers, artists and students.

The original submission reads as follows.

Lying adjacent to the ruined Benedictine monastery, St Edmundsbury Cathedral and St Mary’s Church, the Great Churchyard is a cemetery in which the grounds have remained undisturbed for several hundred years. 

The Bury Water Meadows Group has been conducting a biodiversity survey in the water meadows, including the Great Churchyard, for two years. The purpose is to establish a picture of the natural life of the area including recording the diversity of plant, bird and insect life.

In January, the Churchyard bursts into life with swathes of snowdrops, Winter Aconites, Lesser Celandine and Violets. They are followed by Comfrey, White Dead-nettle, Red Dead-nettle and yet more Comfrey. The pollinators have a wonderful time. 

By late March, the White Comfrey is interspersed by Green Alkanet, the deep blue flowers of which are a wonderful and striking contrast. As the daylight lengthens and there are some warmer days, the white flowers and the aroma of the Few Flowered Garlic become noticeably widespread.

With April there are bluebells and the first sproutings of the Cow Parsley. It is astonishing  how quickly it grows. The air has a sweeter aroma as the Cow Parsley begins to flower. By now much of the Churchyard is a sea of shoulder-high white flowerheads swaying in the breeze. 

This is a sweeping overview picture but our observations have revealed that there are many more plants. Closer study of the area around the ruined Charnel House in the middle of the Churchyard has discovered that, during the summer months there may be as many as 100 plant species in flower, including Bee Orchids. Some of these plants have unusual names including Barren Brome, Common Mouse-ear, Herb Robert, Lady’s Bedstraw, Butter and Eggs, Yorkshire Fog, Betony, Hairy Tare, Pellitory-of-the-Wall and Rat’s-tail Fescue. These names might suggest that the attributes and uses of these plants have been recognised for years.

The Churchyard attracts not only local residents, historians and walkers but also artists and students. Local school children visit with their teachers to study and learn about local nature in all its beauty and variety. They draw plants, measure and record frequency of occurrence and growth and get up close using magnifying glasses and microscopes. Their excitement and enthusiasm can be heard all around the Churchyard. 

The Great Churchyard is a magnet for all who love seeing wild flowers thrive.

The following pictures were included in the submission as well.

We will have to wait a couple of months to hear whether our submission has won recognition.

Iain Carruthers-Jones