Thursday, 16 October 2014

Stefen Leys Pocket Park

It was Chris who saw it first. 

"There's a Pocket Park here," she pointed out. "We just passed the sign."

"No," I said. "There isn't one in Daventry."  But of course she was right, as usual.

I checked on the Internet for Northamptonshire Pocket Parks, and there was no mention of one in Daventry so, intrigued, I set out to investigate.

Sure enough, it was clearly signed where Chris had seen it, along Christchurch Road, so I pressed on.

The early impressions were not promising. A nicely constructed but forlorn-looking notice board stood beside the track, lacking any information at all. 

A letter from Daventry District Council was pinned to the side, seeking to contact the group apparently responsible for the management of the park. I gained the impression that the Pocket Park had been created autonomously by this local group rather than under the auspices of Northamptonshire County Council.

This, I thought, does not look promising. I pushed on, expecting to find a neglected area, overgrown with weeds and defaced by litter. I was quite wrong.

Stefen Leys Pocket Park.
15 October, 2014
Instead I found some fine trees and well-maintained areas of grass. The trees included oak, ash, cherry, field maple, sycamore, aspen, willow, horse chestnut and, beside a pond, alder. Of course many, if not most, had been planted but for wildlife an oak is an oak and an ash is an ash.

Stefen Leys Pocket Park.
15 October, 2014

I was astonished and, despite it being yet another chilly, damp and sunless day, my spirits were lifted. Of course, there were very few insects around but that didn't mean that the area was devoid of interest and my camera was soon in action.

A highly ornamental crab apple stood out, its fruits almost glowing in the dull conditions.

Malus 'Golden Hornet' in Stefen Leys Pocket Park.
15 October, 2014

I have little doubt that it was a specimen of Malus "Golden Hornet", and it bore hundreds of fruit. These will gradually soften - a process known as 'bletting' - and will then be eagerly eaten by birds such as blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares.

Nearby a plant of Red Campion, Silene dioica, was bearing a head of flowers...

Ganoderma adspersum in Stefen Leys Pocket Park.
15 October, 2014

...and at the base of a tree was a bracket fungus, Ganoderma adspersum. This species, known as the Southern Bracket Fungus, is common but, being drab and frequently at the very base of a tree, is easily overlooked.

Other bracket fungi were present and, in some cases, very obvious. These organisms are not something in which I claim expertise, although these specimens are, I'm fairly certain, Turkey Tail, Trametes versicolor


Trametes versicolor on the trunk of a dead aspen.
Stefen Leys Pocket Park, Daventry. 15 October, 2014

A closer view shows more clearly the bands of colour which give them their popular name. The fan-shaped fruit bodies were clearly old and had been bored by various insects. (I'll ignore the obvious opportunity for a joke!)

Pogonocherus hispidulus at Stefen Leys Pocket Park,
Daventry. 15 October, 2014

In fact insects were proving hard to find but fortunately this little longhorn beetle was obligingly sitting on top of a litter bin, clearly waiting for me to photograph it. Pogonocherus hispidulus, despite its diminutive size (6 mm long), is known as the Greater Thorn-tipped Longhorn Beetle (P. hispidus is slighly smaller). It is common and widespread but I was pleased to record it. It is an odd-looking creature and is normally rather inconspicuous; on a twig it can resemble a piece of lichen.

Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale, the Hawthorn Shieldbug.
Stefen Leys Pocket Park. Daventry. 15 October, 2014

This Hawthorn Shieldbug was - in theory at least - also very well camouflaged, its green and brown coloration perfectly matching the leaf colours of the ornamental dogwood on which it sat. Hawthorn, one of the insect's commonest food plants, has similarly coloured leaves.

As the morning wore on a few flies began to make their presence known but this delicate pink bramble flower received about as many visits as an Aberdeen guest house in January - none.

I spent about an hour in the park and saw four people. It was a miserable day and perhaps there are normally more visitors. Hmm...

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