Lugg Meadow

Location: Near Hereford, Herefordshire

Grid Reference: SO547 405

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Lugg Meadow is best known for its spectacular displays of fritillaries in spring.

Their nodding, checkerboard, purple flowers are a sure sign that summer is on the way. Visitors admiring these delightful plants probably have little idea of the long history that allows them to flourish. The meadows by the River Lugg were recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.

The river regularly floods its banks, bringing rich soil to fertilise the meadow. But the Lugg Meadow also relies on the ancient management that survives to this day. Patches of the meadow are owned by local families, but have never been enclosed. Instead the boundaries of each parcel are marked by “dole stones’’. Each owner can take a crop of hay off their patch in July, then from Lammas Day (1 August) to February, the land becomes common grazing. That’s why it’s called a Lammas meadow.

Golden acres

The meadow is divided into two sections, separated by the A438. Plantlife owns a series of parcels of land across the two parts. Approaching Lugg Meadow in springtime, the main impression is of a mass of yellow buttercups almost as far as the eye can see. This is the best time of year to follow footpaths through the Upper Lugg Meadow – access into the Lower Lugg section is restricted from March to July to protect breeding curlews.

The flora includes two handsome and distinctive members of the carrot family. Pepper-saxifrage, with its yellowish flowers, is characteristic of old meadows. Narrow-leaved water-dropwort, with white or pinkish flowers, is a nationally scarce species only found in lowland England. Another grassland species is wild onion or crow garlic, so called because its leaves smell of garlic when crushed.

These special plants are surrounded by a host of more common meadow species, including oxeye daisy (below) and the thistle-like purple heads of common knapweed. In damper areas, visitors might see the frothy flowerheads of meadowsweet and the tattered, pink flowers of ragged-robin.

By late June, the meadow has turned into a swaying hay field, but there is still colour among the hay. After harvest there is less interest for the botanical visitor, but purple-loosestrife and flowering-rush might be spotted in wet ground by the river.

Purchase of the reserve was made possible by Unilever (Timotei), and supported by Dr Diana Griffith and the National Lottery through the Heritage Memorial Fund.