Aston Lodge Residents Association

Aston Lodge Park - Grassy Patch

Aston Lodge Park - Grassy Patch
Aston Lodge Park - Grassy Patch

We all pass it every time we drive on, or off the estate; it is our link to the countryside that surrounds us. I guess some think it is an untidy mess, but from a wildlife perspective, it is our most valuable site. Unimproved grassland is getting scarce and this site has some scarce and unusual species. Sadly, its future is in doubt, so let's enjoy it while we can. Here is a link to a modified copy of my ecology report, to the Planning Enquiry. It has a full list of species found here.

A walk on the Grassy Patch

Let's take a walk and see what we can find...

Crickets & Grasshoppers

The sounds of summer for those with good hearing! We have two crickets and four grasshoppers. Crickets are very scarce in mid to North Staffordshire, so, we are fortunate to have them. They prefer the longer grass on the site, while the grasshoppers like the shorter turf.

Roesel's Bush Cricket
Roesel's Bush Cricket
Long-winged Conehead
Long-winged Conehead
Common Green Grasshopper
Common Green Grasshopper
Field Grasshopper
Field Grasshopper
Lesser Marsh Grasshopper
Lesser Marsh Grasshopper
Meadow Grasshopper
Meadow Grasshopper

Some Plants

As you enter the Patch from the roundabout, look on the short turf and you will see Dove’s-foot Cranesbill, a wild member of the geranium family.

Dove’s-foot Cranesbill
Dove’s-foot Cranesbill

In the thinnest of soil, you might find the pretty Scarlet Pimpernel. It is also known as Poor Man’s Weatherglass, on account of the flowers not opening in poor weather.

Scarlet Pimpernel
Scarlet Pimpernel

Thistles are dominant on the site. They attract nectar-seeking insects and later, birds like Goldfinch like the fluffy seeds. These are the three main species.

Creeping Thistle
Creeping Thistle (the only scented species)
Spear Thistle
Spear Thistle
Common Knapweed
Common Knapweed

Pea Flowers

As the name suggests, these are related to the peas and beans that we grow and have a similar flower. They also have nitrogen fixating nodules on their roots, that help to increase soil fertility.

Some, like Bird’s-foot Trefoil, like very thin turf and bare ground, others like the tares and vetches live amongst the grasses.

Bush Vetch
Bush Vetch
Bird’s-foot Trefoil
Bird’s-foot Trefoil (food of the Common Blue butterfly)
Common Vetch
Common Vetch
Meadow Vetchling
Meadow Vetchling
Hairy Tare
Hairy Tare
Smooth Tare
Smooth Tare (an uncommon species)

Umbellifers

Umbels are members of the carrot family, most of which have umbrella-shaped domes of white flowers, much loved by insects. The main one here is Hogweed, which flowers right through to November. It does have a smell of pigs!

Hogweed
Hogweed

A Few More Bugs

A beetle that I am sure many of you have seen, is the aptly-named, Thick-legged Flower Beetle, which can often be seen on flowers

Male Thick-legged Flower Beetle
Male Thick-legged Flower Beetle

The Soldier Beetle, Rhagonycha fulva, can be very common on umbel flowerheads.

Rhagonycha fulva
Rhagonycha fulva

There are lots of flies here, but I selected this amazing bristly fly, Tachina fera. It is a parasite fly, that lays its eggs on the larvae of various moths.

Tachina fera
Tachina fera

The pretty Cardinal Beetle is associated with decaying timber. It can occasionally be seen on the Grassy Patch

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle
Red-headed Cardinal Beetle

A Few More Plants

Where the Grassy Patch borders Blackies Lane, there is a large stretch of Field Rose, that looks superb when in flower. The stigma sticks out of the flower on a short stalk – on Dog Rose it does not. This is more noticeable on the hips.

Field Rose flower
Field Rose flower
Field Rose hips
Field Rose hips

Winding its way through the rose is the attractive Hedge Bindweed.

Hedge Bindweed
Hedge Bindweed

Where the Grassy Patch borders the field, there is a large expanse of Bramble or Blackberry. It's great for nesting birds, but also a good source of food and nectar. Did you know that there are over 200 different sorts of Bramble!

Bramble flowers and young fruits
Bramble flowers and young fruits

Butterflies

The Grassy Patch is our main butterfly area and is especially good for grassland species like the Skippers, Ringlet and Meadow Brown, while the thistles attract Small Tortoiseshells, Painted Ladies, Red Admiral and more. It is one of very few spots where the rare White-letter Hairstreak can be found. You can see these in the Butterflies of Aston Lodge Park collection.

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