Saturday, 17 August 2013


From the uncut meadow, where the purple-headed knaves of knapweed jostle with the flowering grasses, comes the song of summer’s end. The buzzing reel of Roesel’s bush crickets heralds the approaching shift in season and marks the slow transition from summer into autumn. That this small block of meadow is here at all probably owes as much to the economic downturn as it does to any ‘green thinking’ within the council’s services department. For many years this was a patch of manicured turf, the flowering plants suppressed by the mower’s blades, but now it is thick with growth and bursting with life. As if to emphasise that this mini-meadow is still ‘managed’ the edge nearest the path has been maintained as lawn, a short sward that beats the boundaries of what is considered wild. It almost seems to serve as a warning; ‘we can tame and subdue if we choose.’

While it is here, and I fear it will not be long before it is cut, the meadow is home to many different insects, from the large and obvious meadow brown butterflies that rise and fall just above the sward, to the small and insignificant, like the froghoppers safe within their froth of cuckoo spit. Many hundreds of tiny spiders live within the sward, their webs picked out on damp mornings by the dew.

It is great to see such a meadow so close to the centre of town, to see nature accessible and to hear the excited chatter of young children marvelling at the butterflies and bumblebees. Of course, the meadow is not untouched by the activities of other passers by. Beer cans collect on the edge of the sward, where the short turf provides an opportunity for some to drink away their days; the council’s litter bins, just feet away, are virtually ignored.

The meadow is at its finest first thing in the morning, before the drinkers arrive. It is spared from their attentions because, to them, it is rough, unkempt and wild, its thistles and biting insects the custodians of this little patch of wild here in the centre of town. The meadow is not fenced, nor does it carry a notice board proclaiming its worth, but it does not need these things.

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