Given time everything will happen at least once. Hopefully, however, the unprecedented flooding on the Sudbury Common Lands during the first week of May will not be repeated. That is the time when the cattle should have been coming out of the barns where they spent the winter months to enjoy the long days out on fresh grasslands. It is also a time of warm spring days for nesting water birds to rear their young and fish to spawn in placid waters. Instead, all was awash with raging torrents of brown floodwater more normally associated with wet winter months.
A change in the weather, however, spells a change in fortunes for those birds affected by the flooding. Breeding and nesting will soon lead to fresh broods on the river. In the pastures the buttercups and other less common plants have plenty of moisture to thrive. Behind the fenced off margin on North Meadow Common a wonderful display of yellow kingcups contrasts vividly with the greening vegetation. Elsewhere on the riverside early marsh orchids, a relatively uncommon species in Suffolk, continue to thrive under careful grazing management and now those areas are also awash with the pretty pink flowers of ragged robin.
One day, perhaps many years hence, a similar picture will greet those who use Friars Meadow but at present the occasional early marsh orchid in the County Wildlife Site conservation grassland is sadly plucked or trampled by those who know no better and so numbers are unable to increase. At least other less common species that are not dressed so gaudily are completely overlooked and thus are able to thrive there.
Elsewhere on the riverside there will be other good news through the early summer months and this time of year is very much about reward for previous management. It is certainly true to say that the Sudbury riverside manages to stuff a ‘quart into a pint pot’ in terms of species diversity although there is never any room for complacency and new schemes and continued careful management is required to encourage further species.
On a final note, this is the time of year when the two rangers can share some of those wonders of the riverside with local school children. It is to be hoped that with the impending closure of the middle schools that the outdoor educational momentum will not be lost. If local children do not learn something of their riverside, then there will be little appreciation of this unique asset when they grow up.