My son loves steam trains. Living in Bridgnorth, this means that we spend a lot of time on board the Severn Valley Railway. It was from the window of a carriage that I first saw the famous poppy fields of Bewdley. A buttercup meadow or a bluebell woodland is a relatively common sight around the Shropshire countryside, but a field of shimmering red is an unusual and striking view.
Photographs of the fields have featured in many local and national newspapers in recent years.
A week later I went to visit the fields to get a closer look. It was around 8pm when I arrived at Blackstone car park but it was high summer and sunset was still several hours away. I was surprised to see a steady stream of people walking up a footpath opposite the car park entrance. I made my way up the same track, passing beneath the sandstone railway bridge. After running alongside a hedge-line, the track swung round and suddenly all around me were gently rolling fields covered in poppies.
It is only when one walks, waist-deep, through the poppies that one gets a true sense of the movement, colour and life in these fields. The gentle breeze blows channels through the poppy stems and the flowers gently sway in the breeze. It is like being surrounded by a constantly shifting, scarlet sea that stretches away to the horizon.
Ed Andrews explores the famous poppy fields of Bewdley……
A poppy for all reasons
As well as the poppies, I can see corn chamomile and other wildflowers growing. I can also see the distinctive stems of barley, an indication of the past management of these fields. The land is part of Blackstone Farm so was once used for growing crops. The poppies and corn chamomile are classed as arable weeds so would have existed in low numbers amongst the barley. The weeds would have been controlled by spraying with herbicides in order to maximise food production.
Before the land was farmed, it would have been part of the Devil’s Spittleful, an area of lowland heathland. Worcestershire Wildlife Trust now own the farm and are embarking on a programme of work to restore these fields to lowland heathland, an internationally important habitat.