North Meadow is an old, flower-rich hay meadow on the northern edge of Cricklade. It lies on the glacial flood plain of the River Thames and the River Churn.
Main habitats: Lowland Grassland
Why visit: North Meadow has a great variety of wildflowers and is of international importance as one of the finest examples of a lowland hay meadow in Europe. It is protected as a Special Area of Conservation.
The meadow also supports Britain’s largest population of the snake’s head fritillary. This is a beautiful and nationally scarce flower, cultivated varieties of which will be familiar to many gardeners.
Once there were many meadows like this along the upper Thames but very few remain today; most have been destroyed by agricultural ‘improvement’ or gravel extraction.
Star species: North Meadow has something to offer almost all year round.
In spring the meadow’s impressive display of snake’s head fritillaries appears, along with bright yellow clusters of marsh marigold and the pink of cuckooflower. Also at this time of year, if you look closely, you will see the diminutive adder’s tongue fern.
By June, North Meadow bursts into colour with hay meadow flowers. The rich purples of greater burnet and common knapweed contrast with the yellows of cowslip, meadow buttercup and yellow rattle, while the rest of the meadow is filled with ox-eye daisies, meadow rue and meadow sweet.
North meadow is famous for its meadow flowers and the nationally-scarce fritillaries, which draw in many visitors.
‘Fritillary watch’ provides regular updates on what to see when as well as linking to other information hosted on the locally-managed, Cricklade in Bloom website. The website also provides details of guided walks and other features of North Meadow and the Cricklade area.
There are also over 20 species of grass, including crested dog’s tail and yellow oat grass. Plants are not the only attraction at North Meadow.
In the summer months many interesting insects are to be seen buzzing around the beautiful hay meadow flowers, including brightly coloured burnet moths, dramatic blue damselflies and a host of beetles.
Throughout the year the meadow and its boundary hedges are filled with bird life. In spring, skylarks make nests amongst the grass, while in the hedges and tree hollows, great tits, blue tits, chaffinches, linnets and tree creepers settle in.
Along the banks of the Rivers Thames and Churn, reed buntings, grey wagtails and sedge warblers can be found, with swallows, sand martins and swifts dancing overhead. In winter the meadow is visited by a variety of wading birds.
How to get there: North Meadow is about 20 minutes walk north west of Cricklade town centre. Car parking and bus links can be found in the town, from where the reserve can be reached by public footpaths.
There is roadside parking within 300 metres of the reserve, and a bus service which runs through Cricklade. There is a disabled access gate at the site, although the reserve can become very wet, so access is not advised at these times. Access is restricted to the public footpath.
Dogs: You are welcome to bring your dog to North Meadow but please keep your dog on a short lead and under control. There are many ground nesting birds such as sky larks that make their nest in the meadow grasses and can easily be disturbed, we request that you and your dog keep to the marked footpaths.
For more information about North Meadow NNR, contact Anita Barratt, Natural England Reserve Manager tel: 07795 3216191, firstname.lastname@example.org or Senior Reserves Manager 01452 813982
Other NNRs in the area