Hemingford Meadow, June 2020

St Ives resident Ian Dobson is passionate about the wonderful meadow and riverside flora we get to enjoy in spring and early summer in St Ives. His contribution includes a tribute to Bridget Smith, an accomplished local botanist and Reeve of Hemingford Great Meadow, who passed on to many of us her enthusiasm for the plants and their historic relevance. She is sadly no longer with us but her insights and stories remain.

Hemingford Great Meadow and its meadow's edge walks are a delight at all times of the year. But delight gives way to excitement when in May a carpet of Buttercups appears that overlays the meadow, as far as eyes can see. Now in June this bright yellow abundance makes way for subtler hues and a profusion of water meadow plants, grasses and flowers. We can count among them Yellow Hayrattle and Lady's Bedstraw, yellow-orange Birds-foot Trefoil, lilac Cuckoo Flower aka Lady's Smock, reddish-purple Knapweed and Red Clover. These are typical of flood meadows managed for hay. Look close and you will also spy deep-red Great Burnet and creamy white Meadowsweet. Look closer still and you may even glimpse bright-blue Skullcap.

In July this Lammas meadow will give up its hay. But not before fading plants drop their seed, so next year's spectacular display is guaranteed. The timing is good, because now the focus can move from Great Meadow to Great Ouse. The joy in July and August of the meadow's river-bank and water's edge riot of colour is there for all to share, whether walking on the bank or by electric boat trip from St Ives Quay. In May and June Yellow Flag had already delighted the eye. But now it's the patches of Purple Loosestrife and pinkish-purple Willowherb and the flotillas of Yellow Waterlily that will capture our attention. And there are other striking flowers like Marsh Woundwort, Woody Nightshade aka Bittersweet and Hemp Agrimony. My favourites at the water's edge are Branched Bur-reed and Flowering Rush. Like others, I would not have come to appreciate these but for Bridget Smith's expert and ever-friendly guidance.

Ian Dobson

Bridget Tribute

 Branched Bur-reed Flowering Rush 
 Photo by Plants for a Future
Branched Bur-reed
 Photograph by Gail Hampshire
Flowering Rush

Purple Loosestrife 

 Photograph by Ian Jackson
Purple Loosestrife