Location: near Calver Hill, Norton Canon, Herefordshire
Grid Reference: SO 375 485
Nestled in a landscape of rounded hills and hollows forged thousands of years ago by a retreating glacier.
Davies Meadows lie on the northern side of the Wye Valley, underlain by glacial moraine. They consist of three unimproved meadows, an ancient perry pear orchard and two ponds.
When Plantlife bought Davies Meadows in 1993, they were something of a timewarp from the old farming ways. The meadows are cut for hay in the summer and grazed during the autumn, as would have been the traditional practice. We want to keep it that way as it’s the perfect way to encourage wild flowers.
Sixteen species of grasses are recorded in the meadows, along with the usual trio of meadow buttercups (meadow, bulbous and creeping) and some more particular meadow flowers, including meadow vetchling, knapweed, devil’s-bit scabious and yellow-rattle. In one of the fields, pignut is especially abundant, with its spreading heads of carrot flowers and finely-divided leaves. Dig up its roots (but not in the meadow please) and you’ll find a brown, knobbly underground tuber, which is good to eat, with a dry, nutty taste.
Much less common in the meadows is sneezewort, a plant of damp grasslands and meadows. Related to yarrow, it has grey-hairy, lance-shaped leaves edged with sharp teeth, and creamy-white flowerheads with eight to 12 petal-like “rays”. It will take a lot more searching to find green-winged orchids here, but it’s worth the effort.
The diversity of plants is mirrored in the insects that flutter and buzz over the meadows, which include two nationally scarce moths: the chimney sweeper, whose caterpillars feed on pignut, and the six-spot burnet, which lays its eggs on bird’s-foot-trefoil. Adding to the variety is the lovely orchard of old perry pear trees and two ponds. The more permanent of these is home to cuckooflower, water forget-me-not, common marsh-bedstraw and floating sweet-grass.
The mixed hedgerows, ponds and old meadows also provide excellent habitat for other wildlife. Frogs and toads are regularly seen and grass snakes have been recorded in the past. That’s a lot to keep the Herefordshire Nature Trust busy, managing the meadows on our behalf.
The reserve is managed by Herefordshire Nature Trust. Its purchase was made possible by Unilever (Timotei).