Carnival Meadow, Eynsham Playing Fields

Skydiver's view by Kevan Martin


The Nature Recovery Networkers had an excellent afternoon of wildflower planting in Eynsham's Carnival Meadow on Sunday 22 October, with a good turnout to help boost the floral diversity of the meadow, now in its third year of development.



 Team Scythe

Photo Jodie Baker


After the recent rain, the meadow was (ironically for a wildflower meadow that likes flooding!) too wet to mow the designated planting area by tractor first.  A call went out asking for help to scythe a suitable strip, sufficient to let planting volunteers access the ground, as the vegetation was still long.  Thank you to those who responded, as it made the afternoon’s planting rather easier!



Sorting plants from NRN-Long Mead's Propagation Group

Photo Catriona Bass


Long Mead’s Catriona Bass and NRN's wonderful group of plant propagators brought along over 300 established wildflower plants in 9cm pots including Common knapweed and Devil’s bit scabious, and these were laid out in position, magically ready for us to plant.   We had an introduction at the start, then chose our patch along the designated stretch and began. 


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Planting out

Photo Nicola Davies


There were some information sheets so we could see each type of wildflower we were planting as it would be in full flower.  It was easy to imagine how attractive the flowers will be for insects and birds next summer.

The ground was soft and it was satisfying to scrape through the grass roots with our trowels or spades and dig gently into the soil below - and amazing to discover a healthy population of worms!  



 Bespoke 9cm pot planters in operation

Photo Rachel Crookes


We also had special bulb planters, and we planted 1000 Snake’s head fritillary bulbs using these.   The disturbed soil from planting was perfect to sprinkle Yellow rattle seeds (mixed with sand for easier distribution), an annual parasitic flower that weakens grass roots and therefore allows young perennial wildflower plants to better establish; it is a vital botanical ingredient for a wildflower meadow.

Nearly an hour flew by and we stopped, almost finished.  Catriona warmly thanked us for our efforts. We were able to meet Rachel Crookes, planting alongside us, who was representing West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC). We are delighted to have been chosen by WODC and Wild Oxfordshire to showcase how communities and parish councils can come together for nature recovery. They have kindly sponsored some of the wildflower meadow restoration work through the provision of compost, yellow rattle seed and the Snake's head fritillary bulbs being planted. We are also grateful to Ecover for funding some of the plant propagation as part of our Meadows for the Climate Project in partnership with Floodplain Meadows Partnership and BBOWT.

We are also grateful to our County Councillors Dan Levy (W Oxon) and Judy Roberts (Vale) and to Natural England for support for our plant propagation sessions, which are open everyone including to those of us with physical and mental health challenges. (Wednesdays 10.30-3.00 on Long Mead).

We wouldn't be where we are without our partners at FarmAbility and Bridewell Gardens, who help us on Long Mead and propagate our wildflower plants on their own sites.



 Its a family affair!

Photo Louise Henson


Catriona told us about the Nature Recovery Network’s next steps, to recreate wildflower meadow at a landscape scale to connect up the ancient meadows and therefore help their survival. New meadows are planned in the Neyotts at Eynsham Lock, and on Changeable Furlongs in the fields beyond, to try to recreate the ancient wildflower meadows that had thrived there since Domesday until destroyed in the 1970s. 

As we create new meadows, Long Mead's Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project is monitoring and learning the most effective ways of establishing and managing successful wildflower meadows.  Every meadow slightly differs but all have common needs – low fertility and the cutting and removal of hay. 



Workers closely observed

Photo Rachel Crookes


Carnival Meadow, with the need to cut it early in the meadow’s calendar before the Eynsham Carnival in July, offers an insight into how meadows can succeed after an early cut, and which species best thrive, before a second mowing later in the year.

As the last of the Fritillary bulbs were planted, it was great to witness connections being made and the promise of sharing some spare wildflower plants for a new eco-club planned at a Witney school. 

I look forward to Carnival Meadow’s next Plantathon!  

Rachel Wilkins, NRN Plantathoner.



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Shadows lengthening. Nearly done!
Photo Rachel Crookes