Thursday, 3 April 2008

Cricklade's Water Meadow

North Meadow is a Natural England Nature Reserve (since 1973) and each spring it comes to life with the purple haze of one and a half million snakeshead fritillaries. The meadow is where the river Churn meets the river Thames and lies a short walk away from the historic town of Cricklade. Cricklade is described as a Saxon town but actually dates back to the Roman occupation as is en route to Cirencester and lies close to the old Roman road of Ermin Street. Cricklade is also the only town in Wiltshire to lie on the river Thames.

Snakeshead fritillary
We were a little early for the fritillaries on this visit as they have only just started to come out - immensely delicate, here is an example of an early blossoming snakeshead fritillary. It has other old country names such as chequered daffodil, ginny hen flower and, less attractively, widow's veil, madam ugly, leopard's lily, toad's head and lazar's bell.
My much cherished book Plant Lore (by Josephine Addison) says, a little oddly perhaps, that in the language of flowers the fritillary symbolises persecution.

Marsh Marigolds

The marsh marigold is a wildflower common to swampy areas. It is unrelated to the real marigold and has many alternative country names - these include kingcup, mollyblobs, water caltrops, water dragon and meadow rout.

The River Thames in Wiltshire
The river Thames rises in a field within walking distance of Cricklade. The Thames Path will eventually take you to it's source and this can be picked up from the North Meadow. Old Father Thames is the source of much folk-lore and many smaller rivers in Wiltshire feed into it. The river Churn (only discovered by me today) and the rivers Ray and Cole which flow through Swindon. It is also noteworthy that the little river Winterbourne near Avebury feeds into the river Kennet, and the Kennet eventually meanders its way through north Wiltshire and Berkshire to join the Thames at Reading.
Note: I finally invested in a pair of wellies before going and have to say they were necessary.