Nacton Meadows

Nacton Meadows is entirely hidden in a small valley that is accessed by a footpath between Levington and Nacton just north of the Orwell estuary. The first meadow is on a west facing slope with a herd of boisterous heffers so not a place to potter. The second is across a stream on a south westerly slope. The upper section is acid grassland and bracken below which there are spring lines picked out by fool’s water cress, marsh thistle and brooklime and a wet fen above the alder-lined stream; here there are sedges, rushes and a range of colourful plants including southern marsh orchid and ragged-robin. The fen vegetation is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). because there is so little of it in Suffolk.

Swallows hunt low over the meadow; a whitethroat and yellowhammer call from the hawthorns on the upper fenceline. There are alarm calls from the swallows and a hobby stoops and twists into the oaks and Scot’s pines on the crest of the hill. The map shows that just over the hill there are large ponds in the broadleaved woodland; a good place to look for hobbies hunting dragonflies.

The brooklime is alive with insects including ladybirds and hoverflies. The ragged-robin attracts bumblebees and their hoverfly mimics. The invertebrate diversity in these vestigial, protected pockets of vegetation always appears so much richer than the surrounding landscape.

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