Amazing Hay Meadows

Orchid Meadow, Photo: Mike Howe

Orchid Meadow, Photo: Mike Howe

I’ve been away working again this week visiting yet more beautiful gardens and grasslands, and the absolute highlight of the trip was seeing this incredible hay meadow that had more orchids in it than I’ve ever seen in my life before.

In just this one field there are over 100,000 orchids of 5 different species.

Orchid Meadow, Photo: Mike Howe

Orchid Meadow, Photo: Mike Howe

The meadow was created by the National Trust in response to a request from The Prince of Wales to create a wildflower meadow in every county in Britain to celebrate the anniversary of the Queens coronation.

Orchid Meadow, Photo: Mike Howe

Orchid Meadow, Photo: Mike Howe

It was also a campaign to try to reclaim the glorious hay meadows that were once common in Britain, 98% of which we have lost to intensive agriculture since 1945, along with all of the wildlife that they supported such as wild flowers, butterflies, moths, bees and ground nesting birds such as meadow pipits and skylarks – all gone from our silent fields because of fertilisers, modern grass mixes, higher yields and the switch from hay making to silage.

Orchid Meadow, Photo: Mike Howe

Orchid Meadow, Photo: Mike Howe

Undoubtedly the star of the botanical show in this restored hay meadow was the rare and beautiful butterfly orchid.  This is the first one I’ve ever seen….

Butterfly Orchid, Photo: Mike Howe

Butterfly Orchid, Photo: Mike Howe

I just hope that we can restore more of these once common traditional hay meadows to our countryside, so that the wildlife that we are in danger of losing forever can be around for our children to see and for future generations.

Orchid Meadow, Photo: Mike Howe

Orchid Meadow, Photo: Mike Howe

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About Mike Howe

I am an ecologist and a composer of guitar based instrumental melodies signed to the Real Music label in California. I like to write about my work, music and nature conservation and how it all comes together. I try not to write about things I don't know much about.
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19 Responses to Amazing Hay Meadows

  1. These places are rare now, but so beautiful. I know only one similar place in Norway, a nature reserve, and it is “treated” to be kept for the orchids, that is not using fertilizerts and then harvesting the gras late in the season, by hand..

    • Mike Howe says:

      Thank you Bente, yes our old hay meadows need to be looked after and somehow we need to help farmers to return to late cutting and light winter grazing – some are doing it and the results, as you know, can be spectacular!

  2. Be Well And Happy says:

    you get around don’t you? Orchids are so exquisite. I bought your album and have been playing it everywhere I work the last two weeks. Played it onsite in an office where I treat a group of stressed out IT and Sales people. One of them fell asleep. It’s very warm – people love it. Someone else said it was much better than some of the electronic crap they have to listen to lol!

  3. Gallivanta says:

    Absolutely beautiful.

  4. Just beautiful. We have lots of hay meadows in Scotland, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so full of orchids before….what a treat. Lets hope we start to see this more often 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    Excellent “trip” Mike, and thanks very much for sharing. That is very cool to know that even at the highest levels — i.e. your Prince — they set aside land for natural wonders like this! Talk about incredible biodiversity!!! Kevin

  6. Jo Woolf says:

    Wow, how beautiful! We had a similar meadow close to where we used to live in North Wales. Sadly there are so few of them now – but that is a good idea to plant one in each county. Wonderful photos!

  7. Thanks to your posts I can explore the beautiful nature of Wales with you. Thank you for that, Mike!

    The butterfly orchid is very delicate and beautiful, indeed. (I also haven’t encountered one in person, yet.)

    Much love!

  8. montucky says:

    That orchid is a real beauty! And meadows like that are treasures!

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