(written at the end of 2013)
We’ve got a plot of grass on our allotment that is about the same footprint as my studio, c. 4 x 4 metres. It’s been there for a long time as a kind of empty lawn space, mowed by our allotment neighbour before I came to Bristol and in recent years by me. Last year I saw the basal leaves of a couple of common-spotted orchids and that got me thinking that we shouldn’t be mowing it and that it could be cultivated as a mini meadow.
Yellow rattle – Last autumn I mowed ‘the meadow’ as close to the ground as I could and then raked it (I think I was only using a fine rake, now I would use the more vigourous cultivating tool), then sowed yellow rattle onto what was pretty well scalped ground. This spring I watched anxiously to see if the rattle would come up. Because the spring was so cold it was really slow to appear, along with everything else. In the end it came up really well.
Seemed like a good food plant for bumblebees in particular. It grew particularly vigorously amongst a patch of clover.
I finally cut the meadow, when almost all flowers had gone over on August 16th.
grasses – I figured out most of the grass species on the plot. The tallest one was false oat grass that had purple-brown flowers quite early on. A rye grass of some kind. Small amounts of cocksfoot. Later on came red fescue.
Annoyingly lost my list, I think there were 2 others…
Yorkshire fog was one of them… this seems like the key for the presence of the small skippers.
other flowers – on the north east side of the plot there was a lot of clover which the rattle thrived amongst. Self heal. Cut-leaved (?) cranesbill. Creeping buttercup. Ragwort. Hogweed. Early on plenty of daisies, dandelions and narrow leaved plantain. Later on greater plantain too. The orange hawkweed, fox & cubs that I’m trying to get rid of. Not a very exciting list and though I sowed a load of a limestone flora seed mix none of it came to anything… maybe because of sowing in spring and with such density of grass.
butterflies – the most interesting species that really seemed to benefit from the existence of the meadow was small skipper. I think we got up to around 10 individuals that were usually on the ragwort flowers.
2 small coppers behaved in a similar way.
A single marbled white seemed very exotic, just passing through.
Plenty of gatekeepers, ringlets, just one or two meadow browns (which I was surprised at… thought there would be more).
Commas, red admirals, small tortoiseshells and peacocks tend to be basking more on the open areas rather than on the meadow area… except for feeding on dandelions early on. There was a procession of peacock caterpillars, not sure of date….
moths… both cinnabar and burnet moth adults were around but no evidence of any young. I thought I saw the burnet moth egg laying but never any caterpillars or chrysalises…. The odd silver y was resting amongst the grasses later on.
I didn’t really scrutinise the hymenoptera… I think most bumblebees were buff-tailed (they were definitely nesting under the garden pond).
beetles – lots of the fat thighed flower beetle oedemera nobilis… seemed to like buttercups. A more long horned type beetle was on the hogweed but i failed to identify it .
A lot of this is good for me to note down just to encourage myself to look harder next year and keep better notes.
18/04/13 – sowing the meadow mixed seed that had arrived from Emorsgate.
Just raking the triangle and then hosing it… On the meadow sowing and then careful watering trying to sluice the seed down to soil…
29/05/13 – The yellow rattle is just starting to flower on the ‘meadow’ and the orchid spikes must be not far off showing first flowers.
03/06/13 – The yellow rattle now really flowering… the orchids just getting first pink buds today. The meadow flora very limited still…. cut leaved cranesbill, a buttercup species… the single hogweed… plantain… daisies and dandelions… yet to really try to name the grasses but would like to try. Started to pull out the ‘fox & cubs’ which just started flowering.
01/07/13 – On the allotment the first proper flowers coming on the self heal. The very fine reddish ‘whorled’ grass.. quite low seeming to be increasing.
08/07 – Ringlets the main butterfly on the allotment… self heal flowering…burnet moth egg laying ? on grasses in meadow.
10/07 – A skipper seen a couple of times….
12/07 – comma today and numbers of ringlets. A cinnabar moth adult yesterday… The skipper yesterday evening definitely small. …
15/07- small skippers on the meadow (1 [ ?)…
18/07 – ragwort coming into full flower over the last week the skippers have been feeding on them… 6 in superficial count this morning.
25/07 – Still small skippers up on the allotment… a cinnabar moth yesterday.
25/07 – small copper on allotment in afternoon
27/07 – 2 small coppers on the allotment…peregrine circling high, long-winged conehead singing, and other grasshopper sp… meadow? calling.
17/08 – crudely cutting the meadow with shears….
29/08 – Nature notes.. shaking out the orchid seeds… Lots of whites flittering over the allotments..
02/09 – Mowing the allotment meadow right down to ground.. trying to guard ant hills.