Westings Meadow

Westings Meadow, Kathryn Parsons

People have walked, worked and shaped "Westings Meadow", between Peterborough and Stamford, UK, for millennia. The earth itself holds traces of Neolithic enclosures, Bronze-Age burial mounds and Medieval farming. In Tudor times, these 500 acres was a common shared between five villages, while nowadays it's a mosaic of intensive arable, gravel quarrying and post-quarried land. This is an ongoing research project.

Westings Meadow map, Kathryn Parsons

Early in 2022 I came across mention of Westings Meadow* and realised that three of Langdyke Countryside Trust's nature reserves now sit on the Meadow. Since then I've been unearthing the stories of its history and wildlife, and using photography, sculpture and words to share them.

Medicine Cabinet for Westings Meadow, Kathryn Parsons

The Medicine Cabinet for Westings Meadow is an imagined emergency first aid box. Each element refers to way in which damaged land and ecosystems heal - either naturally or through the work of Langdyke's volunteers and others who care for the Meadow now. This restoration is vitally important. It means that in spring rare Turtle Doves and Four-Spotted Moth can find a place nest amongst the glow-worms, while in winter tens of thousands of Starlings fly their evening murmurations and safely settle in the dense reedbeds. It speaks too of a description of the Meadow, written by John Clare in the early 1800s, which gives us a first-hand account of the landscape, wildlife and human activity, soon after Enclosure.

Medicine Cabinet for Westings Meadow (detail), Kathryn Parsons

For Healing Westings Meadow
Spread seed for the Turtle Dove
His song will soothe you
Bind Cuts with clean spiders web
fresh from the Lane

Here’s rain and groundwater to
quench thirst and nourish
For shade seek the willow-cooled
air by the Drain

Let trees seed their saplings to
grow where they choose to
the sharp spines of Hawthorn will
hedge and defend

There’s soft downy thistles for
wild bees and Redcaps
Give rose hips to Harvest Mice,
Bramble and grain

Field Bindweed for feeding rare
Four-spotted mothlings
Grow tall reeds for murmurs of
autumn Starlings

For hope and for vision speak
John Clare’s words softly
For meadows of flowers bring
sheep in to graze

Thank God for the soil full of
fungi and microbes
and networks that heal the
loss and the pain

Kathryn Parsons, November 2022

Contrasting Perspectives of Westings Meadow, Kathryn Parsons

Contrasting Perspectives: Westings Meadow, photo collage
Many of the old stone bridges across Westings Meadow have carvings of shoes, hands and more. John Clare said they were the "the idle amusements of cowtending boys horse tenders & shepherds". Though at first glance the flat landscape of the Meadow means some describe it as 'a bit boring', the carvings hint at its history and importance to surrounding villages.

Walking Westings Meadow, Kathryn Parsons

Walking Westings Meadow, photo collage
The ruler-straight Maxey Cut runs through Westings Meadow, built in the 1950s to prevent the river flooding this ancient flood meadow.

*Tracey Partida (2014) “Drawing the Lines: A GIS study of enclosure and landscape in Northamptonshire” (Doctoral dissertation, University of Huddersfield)

With thanks to Studio One, Peterborough, for photographic services.