Summer wildflowers may be gorgeous, but you still need to respect the land they’re on; don’t pick them, and stick to paths, roads and trails rather than wading in knee-high. It’s sometimes best to watch the extravaganza from a distance to experience the full joy of glowing flowers, happy bees and summer sunshine.
Muker Meadows, Swaledale, Yorkshire
The Muker hay meadows are famous for the richness and density of their wildflowers; it’s likely you’ll encounter more species here than anywhere else in the UK. Their summer wildflowers include rare grasses and beauties like Lady’s Mantle and Wood Crane’s Bill, and the meadows are best viewed in full flower in mid-June. They’re protected as ‘Coronation Meadows’ by the Prince of Wales and are best viewed from public rights-of-way.
The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire
Fans of orchids will be bowled over by the native orchids on display around the Cotswolds. The estate of Greystones contains the Salmonsbury Meadows, which are famous for their displays of rare Southern Marsh and Early Marsh orchids in mid-June. Meanwhile, the Cotswolds Important Plant Area, which stretches across the local countryside, contains twelve different species of summer-flowering orchid, including the rare red helleborine; look out for them on a summer amble along the Cotswold Way National Trail.
Clattinger Farm Nature Reserve, Wiltshire
The Clattinger grasslands are where Prince Charles himself, a noted meadow-lover, sources natural wildflower seeds for his own meadows; it’s one of the most diverse and ancient wildflower sites in the UK. It was opened in 1997 and is one of the only lowland farms in England to be completely free of any agricultural chemicals. It’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its spectacular range of flower species; in summer, look out for the southern marsh orchid, the burnt orchid and the marsh fritillary.
Newborough Warren, Wales
Coastal wildflowers are an astonishing sight, and this area of Wales is an excellent place to view them. You may not expect the Newborough Warren in Ynys Llanddwyn National Nature Reserve to be rich in wildflowers, as it’s a huge series of sand dunes, but in the salt marshes, sand and mud, wildflowers flourish throughout the warmer seasons. Parnassus and marsh helleborines are particularly prominent in summer, but many onlookers are orchid fans; wet, protected hollows in the dunes dry out in hot weather and become orchid havens.
Rose End Meadows, Derbyshire
Step back in time in the sixteen Rose End Meadows, with their tangles of buttercups and cowslips at the height of summer. The limestone of the Derbyshire countryside brings out bluebells from the soil in spring, and in summer wood anemone, cow parsley and many varieties of orchid flourish. As many as 242 different species of flower have been recorded here, so be prepared to be stunned by variety.
West Pentire, Cornwall
The North Cornish coast is a beautiful area for wildflower-spotting in July and August, when poppies and corn marigolds bloom. The West Pentire fields are the best choice for summer wildflower-watching. Beyond the poppies are cliff-dwelling flowers like sea lavender and autumn squill; it’s best to go with a wildflower guide book to trace the varieties you see - and their charming names!