Aston Lodge Residents Association

Blackies Lane

Blackies Lane
Blackies Lane

Sunken lanes seem to be a feature in this part of Staffordshire and we are lucky to have one such lane on Aston Lodge. It is a valuable habitat for wildlife and below are some of the flora and fauna you may see along it and in the fields beyond, so why not join me for...

A walk up Blackies Lane

Walking up the lane from the road, at the sides of the track, you might see the red berries of Lords-and-Ladies or Cuckoo Pint, but in spring you find the flower with its cowl surrounding the spadix.

Lords-and-Ladies
Lords-and-Ladies

Also in the trackside, is the White Dead-nettle which, as its name suggests, does not sting!

White Dead-nettle
White Dead-nettle

There are two interesting plants alongside the stream that can be seen from the path. The Wild Garlic or Ramsons is quite obvious.

Wild Garlic
Wild Garlic

The other plant is not so obvious, but it forms a yellowish mat by the side of the stream.

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage
Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage

Lining the stream, on both sides of the lane, is the water-loving Alder. Its seeds are much loved by Goldfinches and Siskins.

Alder catkin and cones
Alder catkin and cones

There are a few Wych Elms along the lane and these are the foodplant of the rare White-letter Hairstreak. The trees are more obvious in the spring when the flowers and fruits come out before the leaves.

Wych Elm flowers and seeds
Wych Elm flowers and seeds

One of the features of Blackies Lane, especially in Spring, is the Queen Anne's Lace or Cow Parsley.

Cow Parsley
Cow Parsley

This is joined by Garlic Mustard or Jack-by-the-Hedge. Rub the leaves and you will see where its name comes from! You can use them in salads I believe.

Garlic Mustard
Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard is the foodplant of the Orange-tip butterfly and the lane is a good spot for this species in the spring.

Male and female Orange-tip
Male and female Orange-tip

As the lane rises, the sides rise up too, which means that part of the lane is in shadow. This encourages a growth of ferns, particularly the Male Fern.

Male Fern
Male Fern

The dappled shade of the lane is just what the Speckled Wood butterflies like and this is one of the best spots for them.

Speckled Wood
Speckled Wood

A plant that is a feature of the lane in spring, is the Greater Stitchwort.

Greater Stitchwort
Greater Stitchwort

One of the earliest plants to flower grows on both sides of the lane – Dog's Mercury, an unusual plant related to the spurges.

Dog's Mercury
Dog's Mercury

Dotted among the plants, the Red Campion stands out.

Red Campion
Red Campion

Before leaving the cutting, just look back at the two magnificent Ash trees. We now have Ash dieback in the county, I just hope these two survive!

One of the two Ash trees
One of the two Ash trees

Crossing the cattlegrid takes us into the open and ahead is the pond.

The pond in winter
The pond in winter

Apart from the Newt Pools off Lander Close, it is the only open water we have. It attracts a pair of Mallard, occasional Moorhens and in cold weather occasionally Snipe and even a Green Sandpiper. By July and August the pond almost dries out.

Here you will find frogspawn in the spring.

Frogspawn
Frogspawn

Growing around the pond and in the damper grassy areas is Lady's Smock; another foodplant of the Orange-tip butterfly.

Lady's Smock
Lady's Smock

Depending on grazing, the meadows can look fantastic in spring.

Upper meadow in spring
Upper meadow in spring

Look carefully at the buttercups, because most are Bulbous Buttercup with the turned down sepals.

Bulbous Buttercup
Bulbous Buttercup

As you make your way to the wicket gate and home, pause to marvel at the magnificent Oak. It is over 120 years old!

Old Oak Tree
Old Oak Tree

I hope you enjoyed the walk!

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Copyright © - November 2021. Unless otherwise stated, images and text: David Emley. All rights reserved.