A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
The hedgerow in Clewers Lane borders the field which once was Jhansi Farmland and is a rich source of food and shelter for wildlife. Approximately one fifty metres in length starting from the entrance to Horton Barns up to the western end of the field, it possesses thirteen different species of woody plant or tree: Elder, Oak, Holly, Ash, Wild Privet, Willow, Hawthorn, Dog Rose, Bullace, Blackthorn, Hazel and Yew. The sheer number of woody species indicates that the hedgerow is indeed very old. Include the many large Ivy and Bramble plants and it can be seen that the hedge is a year round larder for birds, insects and small mammals.
At this time of year, some fruits are beginning to ripen:
BULLACE FRUITS, CLEWERS LANE
BRAMBLE FRUITS, CLEWERS LANE
HAWTHORN FRUITS, CLEWERS LANE.
HIPS OF DOG ROSE, CLEWERS LANE
The Ash and Oak tree fruits will soon be ready for eating and, even though there will be enough for the resident Grey Squirrels and Jays, they keep a close eye on the development of the seeds in order to protect their interests. Both Squirrels and Jays bury acorns in autumn to use as a reserve in the event of a long hard winter. The Squirrel bites the germinating end from the acorn before burying it, thereby preventing any forgotten seeds from developing into trees. The Jay however, buries the acorn whole, which allows forgotten seeds to germinate and maybe develop into trees. It is said that the Jay is responsible for the creation of oak forests throughout Britain.
JAY, CLEWERS LANE
Late summer is the time when Comma butterflies emerge to feed on the juice of ripe bramble fruits or on nectar from late blooming flowers. This large butterfly is easy to identify with its orange/rust colour and its highly scalloped wings. The underside of each wing carries a small white marking in the shape of a comma, and this is the origin of the name.
COMMA, CLEWERS LANE
So far, the hoverflies don’t seem to be around in the large numbers that we saw last year – maybe the heavy rains have been a factor. Of those that have been out and about, this one is a rather elegant one with a long, slender body. It goes by the name of Sphaerophoria Scripta; a long name for a small insect:
SPHAEROPHORIA SCRIPTA, CLEWERS LANE
Sawflies are also in the air, and their small green larvae can be spotted munching rose and similar leaves. Sawflies are in the same group of insects as bees and wasps. This one, with its distinctive yellow body is quite common and goes by the catchy name of Hymenoptera Symphta:
HYMENOPTERA SYMPHTA, CLEWERS LANE
And this is what its larvae look like:
SAWFLY LARVAE, CLEWERS LANE
With so many Hawthorn Trees in the lane, it is no surprise to find Hawthorn Shield bugs too:
HAWTHORN SHIELD BUG, CLEWERS LANE
Shield bugs usually overwinter as adults by hibernating in dry leaf litter and similar. Eggs are laid in spring, from which young Shield bugs develop and mature over the summer and autumn, finally achieving adulthood in late autumn. Young Shield bugs are called Nymphs and are not immediately recognisable as Shield bugs. The shape evolves as they mature and they moult several times throughout the growing season:
GREEEN SHIELD BUG NYMPH, CLEWERS LANE
In the grassy verge, the bright red berries of a plant known as ‘Cuckoo Pint’ or ‘Lords and Ladies’ as it is sometimes called. The bright red berries are very poisonous and should never be eaten. The roots are high in starch, and the first Elizabethans gathered this part of the plant in order to stiffen the highly frilled and delicate ruffs which were then the height of fashion:
LORDS AND LADIES, CLEWERS LANE
And finally for this month, I spotted this young frog out and about on the verge – no doubt encouraged by the recent very wet weather!
YOUNG COMMON FROG, CLEWERS LANE