Cowslips and orchids at Chettisham Meadow

Cowslips and orchids at Chettisham Meadow

Helen Moore and the Ely Local Group have made a record count of green-winged orchids

Chettisham Meadow near Ely is a small Wildlife Trust nature reserve, not much bigger than a rugby pitch. In April there are two distinct stripes running the length of the meadow - as cowslips Primula veris grow best on the ridges of this ridge and furrow meadow which has not been ploughed for centuries. As April draws to a close, purple joins the yellow as the green-winged orchids Anacamptis morio come into flower. The meadow is a Coronation Meadow - one of the best examples of a lowland hay meadow in the county because of the green-winged orchids, adders tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum and other plants not commonly found in the area.

In recent years the Trust's Ely Local Group has counted green-winged orchids at this time of year - the count on Sunday 30 April was a record for the group with 10,196, beating last year’s total of 8,855. The largest concentration of orchids is on the ridges but the demarcation is not as clear as it is for the cowslips. Thanks to the 19 volunteers who made the count possible!

If you're interested in visiting the meadow, the Ely Local Group often run evening walks to the Meadow and surrounding droves in spring. Details of Ely Local Group activities and other events can be found here

The increase in orchids is thanks to the sensitive management by Wildlife Trust staff with the help of the late Peter Evans and his family and volunteers from the Ely Local Group. After the Trust purchased the meadow in 2009, the hedges were cut back and the reserve fenced. This has enabled grazing to take place for a few weeks each year to control the grass and allow the orchids to flourish.