Want to see thousand upon thousand of cowslips ? Here’s a great place to do so right now and in the next week or two before they set seed: Courtyard Farm, Ringstead, Norfolk. We visited today, with the farmer, Peter Melchett, a long-standing friend of the Fairyland Trust.
Peter Melchett, Norfolk’s Cowslip King
Peter is an organic farmer and works as Policy Director for the Soil Association as well as running his own farm. From the late 1990s he started sowing wildflower seed on some of his fields, to expand the flower-rich grassland still surviving on remnants of Ringstead Common which is within the Farm. There were and are a few wild cowslips there but like so much of our countryside it was a tiny fragment of the downland that once clothed this part of Norfolk. It’s now a great example of ‘habitat creation’, the sort of thing we want to do with our Fairy Meadow Fund. This was previously an arable field.
The first cowslips in this field were sown from seed, and have multiplied since. They may take several years to become establish from seed but patience is rewarded. Later in the year you can also see other colourful wildflowers like knapweed, ox eye daisy, scabious and dropwort in the same fields.
It rained when we visited (which pleased Peter as the light sandy soil over chalk is very free draining and was very dry) and it made the cowslips look even better. We estimated that just one corner of this field holds over 150,000 cowslips – and they now grow across several fields.
After about 15 years the cowslips are starting to spread naturally into adjacent fields, probably helped by the cows that will eat them !
Visit the Courtyard Farm website for public walking routes around the farm, and details but the area where these pictures were taken is shown on the Google Map below (yellow dots show some footpath access points).