Today I decided to lay down in a lovely old hay meadow. I’m not normally one for being tactile when it comes to nature, I don’t think I’ve ever hugged a tree, but today I felt like I needed to get a bug’s eye view of the world. I discovered that the world is very different when viewed from beneath.
The first exciting observation was that meadows are actually very comfy. Most wildflower meadows in Britain are cut once or twice a year, meaning that at the start of July they are rich with grasses and flowers. If you pick the right spot, ideally somewhere where the grasses outnumber the flowers, the tussocks provide a surprisingly luxurious mattress. Not exactly a deluxe memory foam job, but I’ve paid to sleep on worse. Try not to crush the lovely flowers though!
My second observation was of an olfactory persuasion. Meadow flowers smell wonderful! This sounds like an obvious statement, it’s no secret that flowers smell nice, but often our senses are pummelled by the overpowering scent of the monster flora that most florists peddle. Wildflowers are subtler, and are all the more beautiful for it. I highly recommend getting down amongst the flowers and breathing it all in. (Unless you have hay fever, in which case I recommend staying at home and googling a flower. Alternatively invest in a military grade gas mask, although you may get funny looks from other park users). I digress – meadows smell good!
Things look very different when you change your angle of approach. The first thing that you notice is the astonishing variation in the height and structure of the plants that surround you. From above you can be forgiven for thinking of grasslands as green and homogenous, however this is far from the truth. Grasslands are like forests in miniature, with robust grasses and sturdy herbs forming a canopy over finer species below. The range of colours is startling too. Humans can see more shades of green that any other colour, and nowhere is this more obvious than our wonderful grassland habitats. Green is only the canvas, however, onto which is painted a rich array of flowers of every imaginable colour, each trying to out-compete the other. A festival for the pollinators, and one that I was privileged to attend.
The sky looks different too. You really pay attention to the shape and movement of the clouds when they fill your entire view, as opposed to the bit above the horizon. I’d normally try to write a lengthy description using tedious long words, but it ultimately comes down to this – clouds are pretty great aren’t they? Do you know what else are great? Birds! If you’re lucky enough to pick the right spot you’ll be treated to an aerial display by swifts, swallows or martins (or various combinations of the three). The sight and sound of these beautiful creatures is a true sign of summer – magnificent! I was also fortunate enough to see a dragonfly from beneath, hawking slowly over the meadow, dual pairs of wings beating like the mighty rotors of a chinook helicopter. Superb!
A word of warning before you rush off to frolic in the nearest field: by choosing to get down amongst the vegetation, you’re issuing an open invitation to a host of weird and wonderful invertebrates. You effectively turn yourself into habitat, to be colonised and invaded at will. By and large most of the species that you encounter in meadows are fairly benign, but there’s always a risk of ants in pants or bees in bras. That is, bees getting into your bra, rather than a bee wearing a tiny bra. Although…
Finally, there’s no poetic way to put this, but check for dog mess. Always, always check for dog mess.
PS. On a slightly more serious note, beware of ticks. They can carry Lyme disease, which can be very nasty. If in doubt, don’t take your clothes off and roll around.