Our front “lawn”

Yesterday the Friends of Hastings CPNR organised a Bee event-a talk by Nikki Gammans, including an update on her work to re-introduce the Short Haired Bumblebee to the Dungeness area, followed by a walk around Ecclesbourne Meadow to see some bees. Unfortunately the awful weather prevented the walk taking place, but the talk was excellent.
The Short Haired Bumblebees are to be brought from Sweden, where there are large numbers, including on flower rich road-side verges which are not regularly mown as they are in this country. It’s very sad to drive around and see developing flowers on verges and gardens ruthlessly cut down, but at least we can control what happens in our own gardens.

Our front garden in Fairlight is small, about 9m x 9m, and when we moved in 4 years ago this was a mown lawn, with a strip about 80cm wide beside the parking area, which had been cultivated in the past, there are 2 high hedges.
Having no interest in lawns , we considered turning it into a vegetable garden, but as the season progressed [we arrived in January] quite a variety of plants began to appear, including some distinctive leaves of Common Spotted Orchid.
As a result we have managed this lawn as a hay meadow since then, cutting it once only in late autumn and removing the “hay”.

In June this year, botanist Jacqueline Rose kindly spent an hour identifying everything and produced a list of no less than 52 plant species, of which 37 were on the main lawn and a further 15 under hedges or in the previously cultivated strip. Only 4 species of non native [garden] plants were noted.

It seems to be a poor year for orchids, but Jacqueline found both the Spotted Orchid and one small plant of the scarcer orchid Broad Leaved Helleborine, which appears annually. Not yet apparent, but occuring in some years, was the late flowering Autumn Ladies Tresses orchid, the most exciting plant we have recorded.Other plants of interest were: Wild Strawberry,Barren Strawberry, Ox-eye Daisy,Field Woodrush, Sanicle [a not very common umbellifer which is spreading here], Common Dog Violet, 7 species of grass and numerous seedlings of oak, ash and hawthorn. [In the absence of annual cutting the front garden would soon become scrub]
As the picture shows there is a lot of Birds Foot Trefoil, the patches of this are getting bigger every year and are a haven for bees and grasshoppers. The support stick for the willow dragonfly has a Six Spot Burnet Moth Cocoon on it, we found 2 cocoons this year for first time.
What the picture doesn’t quite show is an old abandoned lawnmower symbolically rusting in a corner……


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