Now is a great time to see this year’s spectacular fritillary display. The picture above was taken last Saturday and shows huge numbers of fritillaries in flower.
On a sunny day the meadow will have a purple bloom as the majority of fritillary flowers are purple. There are also white flowers which are the same species and these are less common, about 7% of the total.
Only about 20% of the fritillary plants flower each year. The majority of mainly young plants are non-flowering, some with only a single leaf which resembles a blade of grass. The Floodplain Meadows Partnership who carry out research on North Meadow have produced a leaflet explaining the life cycle of Snakes Head Fritillaries.
Bring your binoculars to get the best view of the display which is even better from a low viewpoint. Please remember to stay on the path.
What to look out for on your visit
Another striking plant to look out for is the marsh-marigold or kingcup (Caltha palustris). Their bright yellow flowers are clearly visible in the damper areas of the meadow. You may notice some other pale pink flowers amongst the fritillaries which are known by several common names cuckoo flower, lady’s smock, mayflower, or milkmaids ( Cardamine pratensis). They are the food plant of the orange tip butterfly which has just started to emerge.
Do listen to the sounds of the meadow you are almost certain to hear Skylarks singing as they climb into the sky. These birds are now rare in our countryside but breed every year on the meadow nesting on the ground amongst the fritillaries.
Please protect the meadow by staying on the marked paths and keep your dog on a short lead. Dogs will damage the fritillaries and disturb ground nesting birds if they leave the marked paths.
The next weekend is likely to be very busy so consider a weekday for a quieter visit. After your visit you can find a cup of tea in Cricklade High Street. If you visit at the weekend, the Cricklade Bloomers Tea Room will be open at the Thames Hall by Cricklade Town bridge between 11am and 4pm on Sat/Sun 23/24th April.