Highams Park Forum
The flower meadow
The flower meadow
The flower meadow is a project of the Forum that started in 2005. This page is an illustrated diary of the Flower Meadow during the years 2008 and 2009. An arrangement has been made with the Greenspace department of LBWF to leave a section of the grass unmown in The Highams Park (the large grassy slope to the east side of Highams Park lake). The area chosen is a banjo shaped area midway between Henry's Avenue and Marion Grove. It follows the line of one of the (now buried) roads which served the post-war prefabs which used to occupy the site.
The original approach was to simply leave the area untouched to see what plants appeared. Although some interesting plants started to establish themselves, it was not as dramatic as we had hoped for. To try to assist nature, a small programme of planting wildflower plugs commenced. Unfortunately the strength of the existing grass smothered most of the newcomers.
As at 05MAY08: Greenspace have skimmed the three patches as promised. Today, Forum members seeded these areas with a selection of native wildflowers. A few young plants were also added. Now we just need to wait and see what comes up. Need a bit of rain and not too many hungry birds!
As at 26JUN08: I think its a case of Good news / Bad news. The Bad news is that the seeding of the three patches was not as successful as hoped. Not a complete failure by any means; the young plants survived OK but only a limited number of seedlings have appeared. So not the mass of wildflowers we had hoped for. The Good news is that nature is doing fine without our help in the rest of the meadow and a good number of different types of wildflowers have been observed. There seems to be more than in previous years so perhaps self seeding is helping, year on year. Some of the plants identified are: Birdsfoot trefoil, Campion, Knapweed, Cat's ear, Oxeye Daisy, Corncockle, Lady's bedstraw, Cinqfoil, Ribwort, Red clover, White Clover, Buttercup, Common Daisy and Yarrow.
As at 27JUL08: Some of the early bloomers are now in seed (and will hopefully contribute to next year's show). The meadow is buzzing with insect life. More growth is visible in the three patches (particularly the uppermost one), so perhaps we were a little hasty in writing off our seeding efforts.
As at 06SEP08:The meadow has not yet been mowed for the end of the season and many plants are still in flower. The flowers seem to have survived the heavy rain and wind well and have held on to their petals. Many self seeded Oak seedlings are springing up. The piles of turf from the three skimmed patches are now providing a habitat for a number of plants which are thriving on them.
As at 04NOV08: The meadow looks rather bedraggled as it waits for its end of season mowing. LBWF Greenspace have agreed to mow and rake the meadow in the next few days. Manual raking of the cut material from the surface is generally considered to be good practice for encouraging wildflower growth next season.
As at 18DEC08: The meadow has now been mowed and raked. This took place around the end of November. The grass has not been cropped as closely as the rest of the park and so the characteristic banjo shape of the meadow is still clearly visible. It will now be left, awaiting the new growing season in the spring of 2009.
In January, following the December mowing, and due to a misunderstanding, some well intentioned workmen filled in the three skimmed areas with the turves which were still piled by the side. Apparently they understood that the skimmed areas were a failed experiment and looked untidy. Although the skimmed areas were not a raging success, some growth had been evident and it was hoped that self seeding would create a better result in 2009. Never mind. Now we'll see what nature does with the re-laid patches. Will plants grow through from below? Will the turves have picked up seeds whilst in a pile, ready to flourish now that they are laid flat? We will see.....
As at 13JUN09: The grass itself has grown up nicely and is quite attractive swaying in the spring breeze. The wildflower species present in 2008 (and described above) are present again in 2009 but the Birdsfoot trefoil is particularly prevalent having spread and now forms a number of bright yellow carpets. Bees seem to find these attractive and can be seen hovering from one flower to the next. A couple of patches of Oxeye Daisy are also doing well, looking very healthy and having far more flower heads that last year.
As at 05JUL09: Lesser Knapweed now in flower. Its bright purple flowers are popular with the bees. The plant looks like a thistle but doesn't have spiky stems or leaves.
As at 15AUG09: Many of the flowers have started going to seed and much of the colour has gone from the meadow. The white flowers of Yarrow now dominate the meadow. Apparently Yarrow has been used to dress wounds since the time of the ancient Greeks.
As at 16OCT09: As autumn sets in there are just a few flowers remaining and you have to look hard to find them. The meadow will be mowed shortly and will disappear until next year.