When planning a walk to hit the best flowering time for a plant it's always a gamble. April the 22nd was what I picked, based on the fact that I thought the fritillaries would be late this year. In the 3 days after I sent the email inviting customers to our farm walk we had over 2 inches of rain. The river came up and before we knew it water levels were as high (or even higher) than they had been at any point during the winter. Not great when the main attraction was to be fritillaries in flower, which were now under water.
Luckily things picked up and the water went down to a level where the plants could put up flower buds and we could get out on to the meadow with out causing damage. A count the week before showed no flowers and around 50 buds, and some actually in flower at the second site so the visit was definitely on. Just to make things a little exciting we had a huge thunder storm with lightening, wind and rain the night before. Our electricity got knocked out and the cows were not impressed but no damage done.
On the day we were treated to sunshine which was excellent and a huge relief. We also somehow managed to catch the fritillaries at their peak, the couple of days of hot weather in the week leading up sent them from nothing to full flower very quickly. In all there were about 350 in flower on our patch, and 15,000 plus at the second site we visited. We were luck to be accompanied by Phil Brown, Natural England Volunteer Warden and local expert on all things fritillary related. Phil brought his seed pods and seeds and did an excellent talk on the unusual lifecycle of the fritillary.
We also had a brief visit to Leigh Old Chancel which was between the two fritillary sites. Here the cowslips were looking magnificent. The first early purple orchids were making their appearance which was great to see. The soil here is just a bit more alkaline and doesn't actually flood so it has a different mix of plants to our flood plain meadows. The bluebells were also out in the hedges and a few Cuckoo Flower, so all in all a great diverse spring floral display. Also my daughter happened to find a St Georges mushroom, which is a great seasonal delicacy (and an indicator of undisturbed pasture) which I ate for tea.
In order to get to the second site the walk was significantly longer than other years but virtually all stuck with it . When we got back to the farm tea and home made cakes were appreciated by all and the weather was still good enough to sit out in the garden. If you missed this one do look out for our summer walk.