In my last few posts I’ve shared stories of my travels along with some of the photos I’ve taken. This time, although there will be pictures, I want to tell you about a new project I’ve been working on that’s a bit closer to home. It’s quite an exciting one for me, and I’ve been longing to share more about it for a while but only just been given the all clear to do so.
As some of you may be aware, I write periodically for a couple of branches of The Wildlife Trusts, usually covering seasonal species to look out for or particular places of interest to visit. Recently my local branch, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust, got in touch to see if I was interested in taking part in a larger project. Of course I jumped at the opportunity.
Trumpington Meadows was to be unveiled as their newest reserve and the largest within Cambridge, consisting of a 58 hectare country park complete with wildflower-rich meadows, shady riverside banks and a lovely new pond that already teems with life. Their request was that I document its transformation as the reserve develops and help to provide a photographic record of the species there.
To be involved with something like this from such an early stage is always an exciting prospect and I was longing to get stuck in. My first visit to the site was back in May when the wildflower meadows were just beginning to bloom. It seems appropriate therefore, that I share with you some of my favourite images from that first visit, starting with a few plants.
The first is an iconic flower in many ways; lover of disturbed ground and emblem of the fallen, once synonymous with arable fields: the Poppy (Papaver rhoeas).
Next up, a personal favourite. I can’t particularly say why I like it so much, but the Field Pansy (Viola arvensis) is definitely one to look out for in my opinion. They are quite small but have a certain charm about them, with tiny yellow centres and flawlessly precise purple stripes directing pollinators to the heart of the flower.
The next two images are of slightly more common flowers, yet no less curious or beautiful. Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) is a familiar sight to many and, as per its name, has a pungent herbal smell when crushed. The leaves were used in traditional medicine in days gone by, and it is thought to have taken its name from a French monk named Robert, who used it to heal people in the middle ages. While the leaves are attractive it was the flower I was after; pink and delicate, nodding atop slender stems covered in fine, downy hairs.
The last is Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), a frequently over-looked but undeniably fascinating little plant with perfectly heart-shaped seed pods.
Of course, plants weren’t the only things to see in the meadows. The warm hazy days of summer were just around the corner and the whole place was buzzing with insect life too. One little critter that was particularly eye-catching was this bright green Weevil (Phyllobius sp.) which was clambering around on a Salad Burnet flower bud.
With watery habitats in abundance here, there were various aquatic species too including this beautiful, if slightly less colourful, Mayfly (Ephemera vulgata). It began its life in water spending up to two years as an aquatic nymph, before emerging for a brief aerial adulthood lasting as little as an hour or as much as a day. During this period it will “dance” over the water to attract a mate and having passed on its genetic material to create a new generation, it will perish. I was lucky therefore to find one willing to have a portrait taken during its short time as an adult!
There are a wealth of other wonderful species that frequent the reserve already but that I have yet to capture. That first day I saw a streak of blue as a Kingfisher shot down the river and there have been reports since of Otters there too. I’ve heard Chiffchaffs singing in the trees and seen enormous dragonflies hawking back and forth over the water in search of prey. The meadows are about to burst with colour too. Since May I’ve been back a few times and I can’t wait to share some more of my work there with you, but you will have to wait until next time!