Friday 14 July 2023

Wildflowers and Meadows in Eaton Park, Norwich, 13 July 2023


Guest blog by Sarah Scott, Friends of Eaton Park

Walk arranged by Friends of Eaton Park, with Chris Durdin, Thursday 13 July 2023 6pm.

We were lucky again with the weather: a few spits and spots of rain at the start, but clear and dry for the rest of the walk.  Twelve of us set off from the Rotunda and first stop was the wildflower area between the two model railway enclosures.  This area was originally planted with heathers, but they deteriorated some years ago and the Friends of Eaton Park - in collaboration with the City Council - replaced them with an area of seeded wildflowers.  The beds were a riot of colour for our visit, and we identified: Musk Mallow, Betony, Clary, Greater Knapweed, Ladies Bedstraw (an exceptionally tall version), Wild Carrot and Restharrow.  There was also some bright pink Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea, and Chris used one of the flowers to show us the characteristic structure of pea flowers – the upper petal (the standard), two side petals (wings) and two lower petals, fused together (the keel).

Betony was in both its usual reddish-purple colour and several in this white form.

Broad-leaved everlasting pea.

Restharrow: like several of the flowers in the first area, unusually tall.
Our next stop was inside the large enclosure of the model railway. Before the railway extended into this area of the park, it was the site of a row of clay tennis courts.  In order to lay the railway lines, the courts were broken up and the debris was piled up in mounds. No other preparation, or seed sowing took place, so the meadow growth in this area is entirely natural and utterly different from the previous stop.  We spotted Haresfoot Clover, two kinds of Trefoil (Birdsfoot and Hop), Cranesbills (Dovesfoot) and Yarrow. Bee Orchids are thriving in this part of the park but they are best seen earlier in the year (first weeks of June).

Time was running out at this stage, so we headed straight to the main meadow (on the North Park Avenue side of the park) pausing enroute to look at: Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Procumbent Pearlwort, Knotgrass, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantains (Buckshorn and Ribwort) and Burdock. Most of these were growing out of cracks in the concrete next to the boating lake.  We also spotted a fern (Polypody) growing in the gutter of the old putting green hut!

Common polypody, in the gutter of the old putting green hut.

The North Park meadow is now well established and there was lots to see there: Lesser Knapweed, Yellow Rattle (largely gone to seed with visible – rattly - seed heads), Ladies Bedstraw (the usual, shorter version), Common Ragwort (complete with Red Soldier Beetles, aka Hogweed Bonking Beetle!), Hedge Mustard and grasses (Cocksfoot, Timothy, Yorkshire Fog), White Campion and Catsear.

We discussed the maintenance of the meadow, which is cut just once a year and has clear paths for public access. This year, in September, it will be cut by a party of scythers (in conjunction with Norfolk Wildlife Trust) and – as in previous years – an area will be left overwinter as a ‘refuge’ for insects.

The grasshoppers were very active during our visit but, sadly, we didn’t spot any wasp spiders on this occasion – maybe later in the summer. Despite not finding the spiders we finished up with a fascinating discussion about the ‘stabilimentum’ which is a wide, white, zig-zag strip running down the centre of the web. There are various suggestions as to its purpose – attracting a mate? Attracting prey? Visible at night? But the jury is still out on this one.  The wonders of nature!

Thank you, Chris, for another entertaining and informative ramble.

Sarah Scott

Group members around an area sown with wild flowers.


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