DRAYCOTE MEADOWS SSSI, DRAYCOTE NEAR RUGBY
A traditional hay meadow bounded by old hedgerows and streams, Draycote Meadows is a riot of colour in spring when thousands of green-winged orchids are in flower.
Those with a keen eye may even spot the rare moonwort growing among the short grasses.
In summer common-spotted orchid, bee orchid and meadow vetchling mingle with buttercup and yellow rattle resulting in a spectacular display.
The meadows are also a great place to spot grass snakes, green woodpeckers and summer grassland butterflies.
MOSELEY BOG & JOY’S WOOD NATURE RESERVE, SPRINGFIELD, BIRMINGHAM
Better known for its wet woodlands and gnarled oaks that gave inspiration to JRR Tolkien, this reserve has been carefully managed by The Wildlife Trust to create new meadow areas in the Joy’s Wood section of the site.
In the areas nearer to the Yardley Wood Road entrance there are clearings between the wooded areas which now contain a great diversity of plants and wildlife.
As you emerge into the clearings at Joy’s Wood, keep an eye out for swaying meadow buttercups, yellow rattle and bright white lesser stichwort all showing through the grasses.
Bush crickets are active in these grassy areas and you may well see brimstone and comma butterflies on the fringes, while buzzards and kestrels have recently been seen soaring above searching for small mammals to snatch.
ROWLEY HILLS, NEAR OLDBURY
On the hills looking out over Sandwell, Birmingham and parts of Dudley is an area, which is not only a great place for spotting local landmarks, but also home to an astounding wealth of grassland wildflowers and butterflies.
Backed by spectacular rock exposures of the Rowley Rag is Portway Hill. It was bought after a public appeal by The Wildlife Trust to save it from development and is now a nature reserve boasting scarce plants like the exotic bee orchid and the unusual hare’s foot clover.
These wildflowers support many important butterfly species, including one of the few colonies of marbled white butterflies in Birmingham and the Black Country and it’s a great place for spotting birds of prey soaring above, too.
WOODGATE VALLEY, CLAPGATE LANE, BIRMINGHAM
Here it feels like you’ve left the city far behind, surrounded by rolling fields full of horses, large areas of woodland and the Bourn Brook babbling alongside the path.
This area has survived the urbanisation which surrounds it and this means the meadows actually retain the species and characteristics of traditional meadows.
The damp meadow areas have an especially rich flora including several types of orchid, cuckoo-flower and meadow crane’s bill.
Overhead, you might well see a skylark (one of 80 species of birds recorded) and many species of butterfly are also attracted by the flowers there.
After a walk, you can relax at the visitors’ centre where there is a café and more information about the reserve, as well as a play area for the kids.
SANDWELL VALLEY, WEST BROMWICH
One of the largest areas of green space in the area, Sandwell Valley is another site which has meadows surviving from pre-urbanisation times.
Though your walk may involve crossing a motorway to reach some of the most beautiful meadow areas, you can be sure that it is worth it, as soon the noise of the traffic fades and there are areas of rolling grassland around huge ancient chestnut trees that used to line the edges of fields.
You will find stunning displays of bee orchids, southern marsh orchids and other rare and beautiful wildflowers here as you gaze across the fields and can see the skyline of Birmingham in the distance.
Afterwards, you can relax at Sandwell Park Farm, where there is a visitor centre and other attractions that help to explain the history of the area.
TASKER’S MEADOW, SOUTHAM, WARWICKSHIRE
One of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s newest nature reserves, Tasker’s Meadow is a species rich, semi-improved grassland next to the Stockton Cutting Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
It supports six species of orchid including the greater butterfly orchid and bee orchid, and is also home to some of Warwickshire’s rarest butterfly species including the Grizzled Skipper and Dingy Skipper.
In mid-summer, Marbled White butterflies flit amongst the tall grasses and green tiger beetles hunt in areas of bare ground.
UFTON FIELDS SSSI, UFTON, WARWICKSHIRE
This is a mixed habitat of pools, meadows and woodland.
The meadows at Ufton Fields support cowslip and wild basil and orchids such as the bee orchid and greater butterfly orchid but its star attraction is the small colony of man orchid representing this species most north-westerly location in Britain.
The meadows are also excellent for spotting grass snakes, butterflies and dragonflies.
BRANDON MARSH, COVENTRY
Brandon Marsh SSSI Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre is the headquarters for Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. The adjacent nature reserve consists of pools, reed beds, woodland and meadows.
The meadows located to the south-west of the visitor centre are great for wildflowers with over 500 plant species recorded across the reserve.
The meadows nearest the centre support bee orchid and common-spotted orchid while those next to the River Avon support meadow sweet, lady’s smock and thousands of buttercups.
With luck, you may spot a stoat hunting or a barn owl flying low over the meadows hunting for field voles and shrews. The meadows are also home to butterflies including the orange-tip, comma, peacock, common blue and brimstone.