Wildflower Meadow

A unique and ancient Wild Flower Meadow in Sussex

Wild Flowers Gardern, Sussex
Wild Flowers Gardern, Sussex
Botanic Garden
Plant Life, the wild plant conservation charity, has named High Beeches as one of the 7 great gardens to see wild flowers www.plantlife.org.uk/wildflower_garden.
The Wildflower Meadow, or Front Meadow, at High Beeches has been called a meadow since l848, when Sir Robert Loder bought ‘The Beeches’ and in all likelihood was a meadow long before that. It has not been cultivated for at least 80 years and grazing ceased in about l980. The only plants introduced are some narcissi cultivars in about l980 and the original clump of native birches has been replaced with the existing one. Evolving endlessly, some years it is a mass of ox-eye daises and other years the buttercups predominate. Recently the cowslips, Primula veris, the Common Twayblade, Listera ovata, and the Devilsbit Scabious, Succisa pratensis have been on the increase. 
The meadow slopes to the southwest and the soil is slightly acid. There are 46 species of wildflower and 13 species of grasses, sedges, rushes and ferns to be found, which have been identified by Arthur Hoare of the Sussex Botanical Recording Society. The meadow attracts a huge number of insects including butterflies and moths.
The meadow is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance, SNCI, one of over 300 in West Sussex. There are 11 plants which are indicators of ancient meadow land, all of which are to be found at High Beeches and they are: Sweet Vernal- grass, Red Clover, Ribwort Plaintain, Red fescue, Crested Dog’s Tail, Red Fescue, Cock’sFoot, Yorkshire Fog, White Clover, Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Common Bent and Common Knapweed.
Sussex gardens
Sussex rhododendrons
Sussex rhododendrons
Maintenance: The grass is cut in August and the hay removed by mechanical means.
The heavy horses from The Working Horse Trust then harrow the meadow to removethe thatch, scatter seed and open up the sward to enable the wildflowers to seed successfully.
Through the Seasons: In April the first meadow grasses flower, one of the first is the Sweet Vernal-grass, Anthoxanthum odoratum followed by the Meadow Foxtail, 
The first colour to be seen is yellow from the cowslips then in May the buttercups start to flower followed by the Yellow Rattle, Rhinianthus minor agg., Meadow Vetchling, Lathyrus pratensis and Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Lotus cornicula. Late May and June sees the red of Red Clover, Trifolium pratense, pink of the Common Spotted-orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsia and the whites of the Oxeye Daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare and the Lesser Stitchwort, Stellaria graminea. Later in the summer/early autumn the beautiful Devilsbit Scabious, Succisa pratensis gives parts of the meadow a purple haze.
Many of the wildflowers and grasses in the meadow provide food for the numerous insects, butterflies and moths. Amongst them bees, including Bumble Bees, and hover flies feed on Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Knapweed, Clover, Selfheal, Betony and many more. Cock’s Foot is an important food for the caterpillars of the Ringlet and Large Skipper butterflies. The caterpillars of the Small Skipper feed on Yorkshire Fog and Common Sorrel is a food source for the Small Copper butterfly. Other insects to be seen in the meadow include spiders, beetles, damsel flys, grasshoppers, crickets, ladybirds and dragonflies.
There are many more wildflowers, grasses, sedges, rushes and ferns to be seen throughout the garden. There is a full list for sale in the entrance lodge.
For further reference Margaret Pilkington’s book ‘Wildflower Meadows’ is a detailed study of Meadows.
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