Monday, 19 April 2010

Thames treats: Red kites and fritillaries

We visited some friends this weekend in Marlow.  This lovely town sits on the famous Thames and, although near to London, retains a real village-like feel.  As the sun shone, it was a day for a river-side walk and an ice-cream.  We were not alone as the river was busy with sailing boats.

Thames sailing

A number of years ago the red kite was reintroduced near there by English Nature and is now doing really well.  I counted around two dozen circling above a housing estate riding the thermals and occasionally clashing in mid air.  Apparently they are fed by some people.  Kites eat a wide variety of food including rabbits, voles, rats, mice, birds and earthworms, but many of these are taken as carrion following road collisions or pest control.

Red kites

Further up the Thames lies a precious gem - North Meadow., Cricklade  As we returned home (hot and tired) we could not resist making a quick visit.  This is a National Nature Reserve and home to the majority of England's remaining snake's-head fritillary flowers.  This is a delicate inverted tulip-like flower, which appears each spring before the more agressive grasses and other meadow flowers crowd it out.  It is a stunner...

Snake's-head fritillary flowers

The flowers have a pretty chequered pattern and occur in a purple form and a less common white form.  For more information go to the following web site from Natural England:

If you get a chance to go don't miss it.  In summer this meadow is also spectacular for its other plants and insects...but get there before it's cut for hay!


  1. Such beautiful flowers the snakes-head fritillary has. Sadly in our area all of the fields are over-grazed monocultures but we do have the hedges along the roads.

  2. They are wonderful and well worth the trip to see them each year. However this one filed holds the majority of all these flowers in the UK!

  3. Funnily enough there is a whole field's worth of fritillaries along the (private) drive up to Rainbow Wood House off Widcombe Hill in Bath!
    We've never been able to get them to grow -so they obvioussy need special conditions!

  4. H - I stongly suspect that these have been planted, as this plant only grows on flood meadows in the UK.


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