Song of spring

Should Keats have strolled through Cricklade last Friday he would have seen a sight befitting his eyes and his love of nature. From Prior Park Prep School came a parade of children escorted by the Court Leet with the Town Crier in his full regalia, en route to North Meadow in Spring.

North Meadow, designated as National Nature Reserve of international importance, represents an important example of a lowland hay meadow offering a habitat suitable for the Fritillaria meleagris (Snakeshead Fritillary) and around 250 other wildflower species. Protected as both a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), North Meadow is still managed in part by the Cricklade Court Leet, who play an important role in its management, preserving the traditional methods of grazing.

Existing since the 14th century Cricklade Court Leet is one of only 32 that remain in the country today and were established in Saxon times. Then groups of ten men were formed to take responsibility and punish for the conduct of others. For the children of Prior Park Prep School in Cricklade, this was both a chance to learn about the history of the meadow, and to have the opportunity to fully appreciate its wildlife and scientific importance.

By the cries of 'Oyez, Oyez' and the ringing of his bell, the children were introduced to the Cricklade Town Crier, Eric Cripps, in his waistcoat embroidered with Snakeshead Fritillary flowers. Eric explained how news was brought to people hundreds of years ago by the Town Crier (because most people couldn't read), how notices were posted on inn doors and how The Doomesday Book lead to the collection of taxes by Town Criers.

Presenting to the children, members of the Court Leet then gave invaluable insight into the site's past as grazing during the Lammas period when the freeholders did not use the land, which has lead to the maintenance of the Snakeshead Fritillary. 

For a closer look, the pupils were given a potted flower and its seeds for closer inspection. They learnt about how the Snakeshead Fritillary takes five years to flower and lasts for around 20 years, that the Latin names of the flower refers to its shape being similar to a dice box and pattern as similar to the feathers of a Guinea Fowl. 

Listening intently, the Year 4 children learnt all about the seven native bee species on the meadow, their lifecycles and how to use field guides. They had the chance to get up close with a Red Tailed bee, before it was released. The children were surprised to learn that bees could visit as many as 200 flowers per hour! Scouring underneath the plentiful dock leaves, the children had a wonderful time finding Pot Bellied Emerald Beatles, looking at their shiny colours and considering what would make a good home for them.

Back at school, the children will now create decision diagrams to help identify the most suitable habitats for the different species they found at North Meadow.

As a school in an area surrounded by Technology Businesses we place great importance in the development of the children’s knowledge in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Maths). It was wonderful to offer the children such a unique science opportunity to understand how Cricklade’s history had led to the preservation of such important plant and mini beast species. Our pupils were enthralled at the stories of the Court Leet, hunting for bugs and learning more about the Snakeshead Fritillary .

Mrs Sarah Paddock, Head of Lower Prep, Head of ICT

I've got a male and a female, the female is the big one.

Excited Year 4 pupil about hunting for Pot Bellied Emerald Beatles