It’s National Meadows Day and this poem celebrates the wonder of traditional floodplain hay meadows. These threatened habitats can boast 40 plant species per square metre, which in turn support a vast diversity of animal life. To maintain this important pool of biodiversity these meadows depend on the annual cycle of hay cutting and aftermath grazing that has been shaping them for centuries. They are a key part of our heritage landscape. As if that wasn’t enough, their deep organic soils may store more carbon than woodlands and they are an important form of natural flood alleviation, helping to protect our urban areas from damaging floods. Both multi-functional and eternally inspiring, these meadows are a cultural gem.
by Vicky Bowskill
Mad meadow, merry meadow, misty meadow, mellow meadow.
All these meadow moods and more, reside within these ancient swards.
Lilting lark loops high above,
his song a whirling counterpoint,
to cricket chirp and bumble buzz.
The sweet perfume of vernal grass,
the nodding brome a languid dance.
Old medicine grows here for all,
to cure the flesh and feed the soul.
Herbs for health and hay for wealth
and tall, woven habitat for stealth.
Velvet folds in every hue adorn the sacred nectar-bearers;
luring, inviting, entreating, enticing,
rewarding well their pollen-wearers.
On they dance to spread their ward,
unless snatched up by beak or maw,
this ancient rite of meadow dwellers.
Mystical meadow, magical meadow, mythical meadow.
This solar pageant – ancestral scene – is just the tip that’s here for show,
a rainbow slick, a surface gleam,
coating that which we call Meadow.
The magic of this yearly glamour
lies in darkling rhizome reach,
fed by River’s turbid load,
the founding of the floral feast.
Laden floodplain waters swell, shimmer,
spilling forth in precious spate.
A silvered shroud that quickly gains,
then calmly ebbs away,
leaving silty riches strewn,
to feed the roots,
a wetland boon.
Secret threads rejoice beneath;
searching, claiming, storing, exchanging,
twining, dining in the deep.
Rising, pumping, building leaf and bud and life,
bursting into knapweed splash,
Foaming mounds of meadowsweet,
fragrant blooms for hay or mead.
Meadow shine, meadow twine, meadow time, meadow mine.
Whether it slides or glides,
scuttles or jumps,
hops, flops, flits or clomps,
The meadow feeds them all,
as the river feeds the meadow.
Shaped by hands of generations,
stewards, sculpting this creation.
When wheels and blades and swirling tines,
sweep and swipe the sward,
Cutting, turning, ‘neath summer’s shine,
and coaxing into baled cords,
Meadow does not mourn this passing,
any more than fresh-shorn sheep,
But with the weight of verdant growth now lifted,
Allowing Meadow, and all its buzzing, flapping, crawling, scurrying life,