The hay meadow and orchard field at FarmED are full of cowslips.
These bright yellow, cup-shaped flowers are cousins of the primrose, another well-known early spring spring flower. Cowslips grow in nodding clusters and were once as common as buttercups, found in traditional flower rich pastures and in ancient woodlands and hedgerows. However the loss of these habitats and advance in modern farming methods resulted in a dramatic decline in populations in the 1950s and cowslips became a rarer sight.
Cowslips have many enchanting alternative names, including freckled face, golden drops, bunch of keys, fairies' flower, lady's fingers and milk maidens. The name cowslip allegedly comes from cowpat! More romantically, they were traditionally strewn on church paths for weddings and adorning garlands for May Day. Their scent is not dissimilar to that of an apricot and in the 'Language of Flowers' they symbolise comeliness and winning grace.
The ‘freckled cowslip’ features in Shakespeare’s Henry V as a sign of a well-managed pasture and at FarmED they appear naturally in both the orchard field and the wild flower meadow which are both permanent pastures that have never been ploughed. They are lightly grazed by the sheep after flowering and don’t receive fertilisers. The meadow is cut for hay in September, having left time for everything to flower and seed, but we don’t cut it every year. The orchard is also cut later in the year if needed.