In the Spring meadows
I’d missed out on the afternoon walk organised by my WI the other day but hearing about it at the meeting on Thursday night I came home determined to find the time to explore the same route ourselves. I’ve intended to make it to Cricklade at this time of the year so many times and yet every time I forget, or the weather is poor or we are on holiday…well, you know how life can get in the way of the best intentions.
Cricklade is a small town not so far from here, just over the border into Wiltshire. It has a long history, being situated on Ermine Way which is the Roman road that connected Gloucester and Silchester. Having parked the car in town, we set off along the modern road that follows that same route. The first landmark is the bridge over the River Thames, which rises in a field not so far from here near Cirencester.
As we walked along the quiet road - supposedly closed to traffic due to roadworks - we were following the River Churn and we peered down into the clear water.
My Hero was rather taken by the ancient trees on the riverbank, lining the route. We wondered how long they had been growing there, what history had taken place by their side? We were enjoying our walk for sure, it was a beautiful Spring morning and undoubtedly a delight to be out and about but we were wondering how much further the footpath was…
The answer was, not very far ahead. There was a clear sign to the North Meadows National Nature Reserve, which was the target of our walk.
Surprisingly, we were the only ones there - well, another family arrived shortly afterwards but disappeared in an altogether different direction, so we had the meadows to ourselves. Here too, was the first clue to the reason why this was our destination for the morning: Snakeshead Fritillaries. In this meadow is one of the largest populations of fritillaries in Britain and as my WI friends had reported the other day, they are in bloom!
Through the kissing gate then and into the meadow; fingers crossed it won’t be too wet.
To begin with, we found ourselves peering over the meadow, finding it tricky to spot what we were looking for.
Soon, though, we got our eye in and once we were attuned to that distinctive shade of purple , we spotted the fritillaries all over.
This morning, the flowerheads were all bobbing around in the breeze, delicate little things on seemingly insubstantial stems. It was easy to see why the flowers needed protection from heavy footfall.
Occasionally, we’d come across one flower growing close enough to the path to be able to get a decent picture. Time to get down to the right level, then.
A little further along were a few white fritillaries too, dotted in amongst the more familiar purple.
Admiring a large clump of (I think) Marsh Marigolds, we took one last look around the meadow to get our fill of fritillaries and returned via the kissing gate, back towards the town.
Now, we knew Cricklade to be an historic town but the chap approaching us looked to be dressed in a rather distinctive style which caught our eye.
We greeted him by the Thames bridge and he introduced himself as the Town Crier - one of two in the town. He was heading up to the meadow to lead a walk around the flowers and was glad to stop and chat as we admired his splendid waistcoat.
The work of his talented wife, we were told, and greatly admired by all (and, I might add, worn proudly too).
As we chatted, I noticed the fritillaries on his hat - also his wife’s work - a fitting finale to our morning in Cricklade. It might have taken us some years to get here when the flowers are in bloom but it was worth the wait!