Baydons Meadow is a field beside the river Avon, just a few minutes walk from the centre of Chippenham in Wiltshire. It is being managed by volunteers to become a hay meadow, full of wildflowers with butterflies and other creatures.
It has been owned by Chippenham Borough Lands Charity (CBLC) since 2000 and, after many years of neglect, now has an annual hay-cut in late summer.
The site consists of a grassy field with bramble patches and is bounded by a new hedge on one edge, the river and clumps of trees alongside the cycle path.
Gradually, more wildflowers such as cowslip, knapweeds and meadow cranesbills are spreading. The amount of coarse grasses, docks and stinging nettles is reducing.
Many species of butterfly and other invertebrates are seen over the meadow, together with birds in the hedge and trees.
The area is visited by plenty of people, many walking their dogs, others just strolling through, some resting on the log seats.
In the past the meadow was known as Blackcross field and was cut for hay in July followed by grazing with cattle. When this stopped, many wildflowers were lost and the boundary hedgerow became overgrown and gappy.
In 2000 Chippenham Borough Lands Charity purchased the site and in 2003 employed the help of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to enhance the site for people and wildlife. The Trust set up a group of interested, local volunteers, drew up a management plan, and for the first year helped them start to transform the field.
From early spring there are cowslips, followed by red campion in the shaded areas around the shrubs and later foxgloves.
As spring moves into summer, this is replaced with a flush of yellow and white from bird's-foot trefoil, buttercups, yellow rattle, meadow vetchling and ox-eye daisy.
Summer and early autumn see the predominant blue and purple colours of meadow cranesbill, common knapweed, saw-wort, devil's-bit scabious, field scabious and thistles.
Yellows return later in autumn with tall stems of fleabane and tansy.
In recent years 22 species of butterflies have been recorded in the meadow. These include large and small skippers, meadow browns and ringlets on the bramble flowers, holly blue and speckled wood along the hedgerow, and common blue, small copper, small tortoiseshell and marbled white in the meadow.
Butterflies can be seen anytime between March and October, but the best months are June to August.
Many species of garden and woodland bird can be seen and heard in the hedgerows and the groups of trees around the edges of the meadow, for example robin, blackbird and bluetit. During the summer house martins and swifts have been seen swooping for insects over the meadow. On rare occasions a kingfisher has been seen flying along above the river and a buzzard soaring high above the meadow.
Invertebrates, mammals and amphibians have been seen, such as day flying moths, damselflies, voles, bats and toads.
General Amenity and Education
The meadow is used by people walking their dogs or taking a pleasant alternative route between the London Road area, the town and Monkton Park.
There is an interpretation board close to the bridge, depicting the meadow and many of the species that may be seen, together with information about the site. Leading from the cyclepath to the board is a path made of bricks, on which are designs by local children and the volunteers.
We have had two large log seats put in: one near the interpretation board, the other overlooking the river at the far end.