Inspired by the words of one of the National Trust founders, Octavia Hill — “the need for quiet, beauty and space” — the organisation is continuing its mission to connect people with nature this summer by revealing the top spots to enjoy a walk in a wildflower meadow.
Head out on a warm, dry day to a wildflower meadow and take a moment to just sit. Listen to the quiet that’s not quiet at all. You’ll find the air literally humming with life.
Hear the bird call, the cricket chirp and the bee’s buzz; watch the clouds move slowly overhead and let the sounds of nature relax your mind. It’s one of summer’s simple pleasures.
The conservation charity now manages over 40 hectares of land as wildflower meadow in Northern Ireland, the equivalent of 80 football pitches.
Much of this land was once intensively farmed fields but the ranger team have been working in close partnership with local tenant farmers to restore natural habitats and introduce nature friendly farming practices.
As a result, large pockets of land across the country are now havens for wildlife, including native flowers, bees, butterflies and birds.
Here are seven of the National Trust’s most beautiful wildflower meadows where you can make it a family day out, or just enjoy the peace and quiet:
Now well matured, the meadow areas around the Old Castle Ruins and the parkland on Inisherk burst into colour every summer. Lawnmowing across the estate has also been reduced to encourage small parcels of wildflower meadow growth.
New areas include the former lawn outside the Visitor Centre, the Avenue, and the Walled Garden, where you’ll find a wildflower maze cut into the grass.
The meadows are great for a range of butterfly and bumblebee species which are easily spotted on a sunny day during the summer months.
Just a few years ago Ned’s Meadow at Minnowburn was an intensively managed silage site with slurry being applied and only one or two species of non-native grass growing.
Working with the tenant farmer, the Belfast ranger team stopped slurry applications and resowed the whole field with local native wildflower seed. After a number of years of careful management, an annual hay cut and light grazing with cows, Ned’s Meadow has become rather special.
It’s rich with native flowers such as Orchids, Ragged Robin, Oxeye Daisy and Black Knapweed and wild grasses such as Crested Dog’s-tail and Sweet Vernal Grass.
A mowed path has been cut through the meadow so that it can be enjoyed by walkers while protecting the species rich grassland from trampling.
Marked as a meadow on the 1862 Springhill estate map, in more recent times this area had been kept as a mowed lawn.
For the last eight years, the ranger team have been managing the area for wildflowers, working with the local tenant farmer to remove the grass at the end of the summer.
Despite there being no wildflower seeds or plug plants sown, every year has seen new species of wildflower emerging as seeds which have laid dormant in the soil for years, now have the right conditions to flourish.
This section of farmland overlooking the garden and the Explore and Play area has recently opened to the public as the Viewpoint Walk.
Visitors can follow a mowed path through the space and be treated to panoramic views at the top of the walk.
The field has been sown with Yellow Rattle, a wildflower that thrives in grassland.
It is known for bringing down soil values which will allow other wildflower species to thrive amongst the grass, supporting a wide range of pollinators, birds and other wildlife.
Once subjected to intensive farming, the parklands at Castle Ward are now managed for nature and Broad Meadow, near the old farmyard and adjacent to Temple Water, has been transformed into a species rich meadowland. When the weather is good, visitors can see a bounty of butterfly and pollinator species flying among the Yellow Rattle, White Clover and Buttercups.
Follow the mowed path down to Temple Water and soak up the historic views.
Mount Stewart, Co Down
The world-famous gardens at Mount Stewart are usually associated with exotic plants from across the globe, so it’s a pleasant surprise for many visitors to come across the wonderful wildflower meadows that can be found in the pleasure grounds and around the lake. Native common spotted orchid thrives here, and the rich variety of wildflowers attract a range of pollinators.
Giant’s Causeway, Co Antrim
The creation of native wildflower meadows is an important part of the conservation work carried out by the ranger team at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. These habitats support a rich variety of insect life which in turn, other animals like hedgehogs, birds and bats feed on. Next time you visit the Giant’s Causeway look out for the vibrant colours of these picturesque blooms, which go a long way in supporting our native pollinators and keeping our planet healthy.
There are hundreds of wonderful plants and flowers to discover in a wildflower meadow. Here are just a few:
Common dog violet,
A charming sanctuary for butterflies — look to the woodland floor for a flush of purple and you might see fritillary butterflies feeding and laying their eggs.
Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)
Hardy and determined, the bramble uses powerful roots to grow rapidly in almost any environment. Look out for juicy blackberries in the summer to make the most of this countryside favourite.
Enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana)
Find enchanter’s nightshade in woods and woodland edges, flowering in summer. Considered a weed in most gardens, this plant is just one part of the complex woodland habitat.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)
This trumpet-like flower is a paradise for wildlife, with its sweet, heady fragrance calling to nearby species, particularly on warm summer evenings.
Herb-robert, (Geranium robertianum)
Pretty, pink and healing, herb-robert flourishes in woodland from spring to late summer. Spot its bright flowers in shady spots in woods and grasslands.