Magic of the meadow
Stop me if I’ve mentioned Martin Down before. I have? Oh well, here I go again. It’s 350 hectares of chalk downland on the borders of Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset where, in summer, you can wander a wilderness of wildflowers – especially orchids. In turn there are huge numbers of butterflies, birds such as nightingales and turtle doves and you have to watch your step for adders. I could lose myself for a week – more so, because such places of colour and life are now rare. By chance, Martin Down has escaped the worst ravages of the plough and the drive to ‘improve’ grassland. I ache to be there.
As high summer approaches, we rejoice in such meadows with botanist Phil Gates (page 50) who gives us a beetle’s eye view of the abundant life to be found in these heavenly places. Love them and help conserve them.
We’re also back in the Lake District this month with a guide for those who might be put off by the thought of crowds and saccharine-sweet chocolate box images. If you only have a week to spare, here’s how to best deploy your days to get a full flavour of this thrilling blend of mountain and water – while dodging the tourist hordes. Dixe Wills is the familiar, friendly voice in your ear, page 18.
And then we have a startling look into the frantic and rather brutal world of stoats and weasels. Photographer Robert Fuller has designed a garden to attract both species and this has given him unparalleled insight into their lives and he has captured some truly lovely images. Revel with weasels on page 32.
Editor Fergus’s wildflower heaven at Martin Down in Hampshire