What’s not to love about wildflower meadows? A nostalgic sea of pretty pastels swaying in the wind, the soporific hum of bees ‘working the blooms’, wildflower meadows are the ultimate feel-good gardens. Researching the London Garden Book A-Z, I came across a few ultra urban ones (the Hogarth Roundabout and Mabley Road meadows to name but two) brightening up the city streets, so it was interesting to visit one of their rural counterparts for a change.
And The Field of Dreams – one of the largest wildflower meadows in Britain – couldn’t be more rural, tucked away off a narrow country lane outside South Petherton in Somerset. Created on a run-down bit of wasteland on the Barcroft Hall Estate, it’s the brainchild of Barcroft’s conservation-minded owners Brian and Denise Herrick, who have taken their inspiration in part from the bio-diverse flora of Table Mountain in South Africa, as well as Kew Gardens nearer to home.
This year is the Field’s second incarnation and it’s bigger and better than before, a 2 ½ acre floral tapestry of nearly 60 different species ranging from cosmopolitan numbers like Californian Bluebell and Chinese Forget-me-not to home-spun favourites such as Corncockle, Cornflower, Poppy, English daisy and Queen Anne’s Lace. The Field is an extraordinary place to visit, its tranquility and simplicity disarming – underwhelming, even, at first – but its soothing tide of soft white, pink, yellow, blue, and purple blooms soon proves irresistible. Walking through the meadow, pausing every now and then to admire a particularly eye-catching bloom, or identify a passing butterfly, is a wonderfully meditative exercise – it turns out those pretty little flowers pack a hefty hypnotic punch. The Field of Dreams is somewhere you leave feeling better than when you arrived.
This year the wildflower meadow is accompanied by the Heart of Gold meadow featuring the golden charms of Black-eyed Susan, Yellow Prairie and Evening Primrose amongst others) planted in tribute to the Queen in her Jubilee year. A third floral field, Rays of Sunshine completes the trio of meadows and continues the mellow yellow vibe with a poignant plantation of thousands of sunflowers. It is dedicated to victims of the Japanese tsunami of 2011, part of the Herricks’ charitable response to that disaster (having observed the therapeutic power of their own Field of Dreams, the couple are also involved in creating four healing wildflower meadows in the disaster areas on the east coast of Japan).
The Field is looking fabulous at the moment but is open until 2 September (entrance £2.50 donation to local charities). The annual seed harvest is scheduled for 13th October (each volunteer pays £5 to gather one large bag of seeds for themselves, and one for the Field) but in the meantime, packets of wild flower seed mix are for sale on site priced just £3.