Magic of the meadow

Countryfile Magazine - - Editor’s Letter - Fer­gus Collins, ed­i­tor@coun­try­

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

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