Oxhey Village Environment Group | www.oveg.org
I must apologise for no notes for a few weeks, seem to be rushing around again these days and the weekend seems to fly by. Life seems to be returning to pre lockdown state, the biggest and least welcome change for me is the increase in noise pollution, the biggest culprit being the small planes from Elstree circling annoyingly overhead, the drone being almost constant. Anyway, I guess each to their own.
There is still masses to see locally on the wild side, the recent rain and cooler temperatures have given us a new flush of green which I am sure was much needed by our trees. I have been particularly pleased to have a new walk to enjoy with much appreciated access from Horsehaven Mews to the Greenway. The old horse paddocks have rewilded quite brilliantly in the last 5 years, with thick hedges still alive with birdsong, the grassland is a nice tussocky structure, which will be brilliant for small mammals and spiders, it is also quite flower rich, there appears to have been some seed sowing presumably by the developers which produced an impressive display of ox eye daisy. I particularly like the ‘brownfield’ habitat on the previously disturbed land, Brownfield is often seen as the ideal places to develop, but are often far better for biodiversity than green fields. The disturbed areas are often low in nutrients so cannot be colonised by vigorous species like rank grasses and nettles, giving wildflowers a chance. Also, the bare ground is dry and hot which is liked by many insects and if you are lucky reptiles like slow worms and common lizard. In the photo you will see the delightfully named Bristly Ox tongue with a big drift of ox eye daisies in the background.
If you get a chance have a look at www.grassroofcompany.co.uk. This is a wonderful company run by John Little whose ‘brownfield’ garden in Essex is stunning, with much of it covered in old reclaimed materials such as crushed ceramics, concrete and sand, sounds awful but is the most colourful and beautiful wildlife garden I have ever visited. Well worth visiting as open every year as part of the national garden scheme.
Anyway back to Oxhey and at the moment the umbellifer or Apiaceae family is very evident particularly on Merry Hill. The Umbellifers are a huge family of plants and many are very important edibles like carrots, parsnips, celery, fennel and parsley. In the meadows we find hogweed and wild carrot in abundance. They are real magnets for insects, and their big flat flowerheads are often buzzing with bees, hoverflies and beetles. The wild carrot (see photo) which in close up is really beautiful being made up of multiple small white flowers with one central dark red/purple flower if you look closely. The photo has Red soldier beetles, which spend most of their short life mating! And the rather magnificent emerald green Thick Legged Flower beetle which you may find in your garden. Both feed in the nectar but will also usefully eat aphids. The wild Carrot is the ancestor of our edible carrot and is you pull up the plant you will notice a small strongly carrot scented root. Lots of plant breeding has created one of our favourite and most versatile vegetables
Another underestimated group of flowers out at the moment is the Thistle, locally it is mainly creeping thistle. It is potentially quite a pest in grasslands especially overgrazed ones as it spreads quickly by seed and by creeping roots. However, if you take the trouble to smell the flower it has the most wonderful heady scent and is stuffed with nectar. In the photo you can see a small skipper having a feed. Creeping thistle is well worth having in controlled amounts as it is so valuable for nectar feeders, it is easy to keep controlled as ‘topping’ (cutting when in flower) which will reduce the vigour and prevent it spreading. If neglected you will soon have your field covered in thistle except when we get an occasional influx of painted lady butterflies from the continent, as their caterpillars love creeping thistles. Mother nature creates balance if we are prepared to wait.
Hope you all stay well and active, back for more in a week or two…