Lea Meadows is a beautiful, diverse and historical nature reserve, teeming with wildflowers and birds. The meeting of meadows, woodland and a meandering stream make for a peaceful, wild experience – and if you’re lucky, you might even see a kingfisher!

Location

Ulverscroft Lane, Markfield
LE67 9PL

OS Map Reference

SK 509114 (Sheet 129)
A static map of Lea Meadows

Know before you go

Size
12 hectares

Entry fee

Free

Parking information

Park on Ulverscroft Lane

Grazing animals

Livestock may be present, including a grazing bull

Access

Coming from Leicester, drive through Newtown Linford village and take the left-hand fork down Ulverscroft Lane. Carry on for 2 km and the reserve entrance is on the left by a public footpath sign at a gate to a 'green lane'. Park on Ulverscroft Lane. Down the 'green lane' is a gate which forms part of a cattle pen. To the right there is a hand gate which leads into the meadows.

Dogs

On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Always open

Best time to visit

Spring

About the reserve

As you approach this beautiful nature reserve, you’ll see a large, undulating meadow stretched out before you. On the opposite side of the meadow, a line of alder trees following the winding stream. There are conifer woods all around. There might be cattle grazing the meadow, helping to maintain the huge diversity of plant life, which in turn supports a profusion of insects. There are paths for visitors to enjoy the reserve, and we please ask that you follow these so as not to damage this sensitive area.

The reserve is at its most beautiful in late spring, when an array of flowers blossom into life. Over 240 species of plants have been recorded from the reserve. In early summer pignut attracts chimney sweeper moths, while later in the summer the carpets turn the purple and blue of betony, harebell and devil's-bit scabious, among numerous species of grasses, sedges and rush. In wetter areas, many hundreds of common and heath spotted-orchids flower, with marsh speedwell and opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage. In drier parts bitter-vetch, great burnet, pepper-saxifrage and a few plants of saw-wort can be seen.

The stream is incredibly clean and healthy, providing the perfect haven for the brook lamprey. Other fish, like bullhead, minnow, three-spined stickleback and brown trout, have also been recorded. Kingfishers are occasionally seen along the stream and the alders alongside are excellent for wintering flocks of siskin and redpoll.

The Lea Meadows can be traced back over seven centuries and appears to be part of a medieval assart, Lea Wood being the other part. When visiting the reserve look out for ridge and furrow underlying some areas. These parts have been ploughed, probably in the 13th or 14th century when grassland had to be sacrificed to meet the immediate demands of a rapidly growing population. To protect the area from grazing animals like wild deer, a substantial bank and ditch was built around the assart. Remnants of this can be seen just after entering the meadows from the east.

Environmental designation

Scheduled Ancient Monument
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)