Cotswold Cowslips

I never did get to see the fritillary fields of Oxford and the Upper Thames. Perhaps next year. If fritillaries are the flowers of the lowlands (albeit rare) then it has to be the cowslip that can lay claim to the title for the hills of the Cotswolds. These little, short stemmed wild primulas (Primula veris) have a simple beauty – they look good growing in the garden but even better in the fields and hedgerows where they belong.


Cowlsips grow in plenty in the secret valley and I have noticed this year that they abound along the old drovers road, as do bluebells – don’t they look good growing in combination? Is this because these green lanes are never sprayed with chemicals and the thick hedgerows that line them prevent any spray drift from reaching? The field below is at the top of the secret valley and is a haven for wild flowers – soon there will be orchids showing. The farmer likes to see them so has never tried to ‘improve’ the ground in the agricultural sense and, as a consequence, the field is also full of birds and bees and butterflies.


However, to see the truly stunning cowslip meadows, you have to travel out of the secret valley. Just a few miles up the road is this field where the cowslips grow in the tens of thousands, so dense that it is impossible to walk without trampling several plants at once. Few people see them as they are ‘off the beaten track’ which is a pity in some respects, for they should be enjoyed and marvelled over.

The scent of cowslips is subtle but, when growing in these huge numbers, it wafts over in waves on gentle, warm breezes, a heady mix of hay and honey. This gives cowslip wine, a traditional drink, its characteristic taste and potency. Made from many hundreds of flower heads it is now rarely made as, fortunately, most people now understand the importance of preserving our native flora and fauna. This has benefitted the cowslips, which were once quite an uncommon sight, as they are left to multiply with these spectacular results.

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7 thoughts on “Cotswold Cowslips

  1. Gerry, Kathy & Martha – This year seems especially good for roadside cowslips and it is good to see them increasing in numbers. At one time, I thought they might become a rarity with spraying and digging up. I can't imagine, Martha, phlox growing in roadside verges – here, we nurture them in our garden borders.Bernie & Chris – I love seeing them in gardens too and I can't think why they shouldn't succeed as they are not too fussy. Perhaps slugs or vine weevils destroyed yours, Chris.Thanks as always for taking the time to comment.Johnson

  2. When we lived in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada)))not England)…these lovely flowers grew out of the lawn…and so I would dig them up and put them in the garden beds because I loved them so. If I remember correctly, there were orange/yellow ones as well. It is rare to see them here in our area, most folks preferring the modern primulas. I imagine ours originated in England as Windsor is an old town, and they found their way to Canada. Of that, I am totally unsure but it seems a sensible thought. I have never seen a field of cowslips, so thank you for the beautiful photos.

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