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Grass Growing under Our Feet

12th June 2020 @ 6:06am – by Adrian Leighton
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grass under feet

Letting the grass grow under your feet by Adrian Leighton

I would like to share with you another of my wild adventures. Experiencing the beauty of our spring wild flowers this year also made me aware of the other type of plants which shared space with them – the grasses. I have always found these an illusive mystery. From time to time they have given me a "Wow" moment but they have remained insignificant and fair game for the mower or strimmer.

Reading the survey report by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust on the Turnpike Fields, I realised that there are over a dozen different types of grass present. Even more intriguing are the names some of them go by, like Yorkshire Fog and Creeping Bent. So I decided to look further into them. I bought myself a guide to Common Grasses and with camera and magnifying glass set off one afternoon recently with Geraldine, my wife, to see what I could see.

The first thing to say is how wonderful it is that the fields have been allowed just to be "wild", the grass has not been cut and allowed to grow up and produce a natural grassland. Immediately I stepped through the gate the uncut field was ablaze with grasses waving in the breeze. Off the well trodden path and into the knee-high grass, the first type we encountered was Yorkshire Fog. The abundant pinkish seed heads gave a shimming haze across the ground. Looking carefully among the stalks were the more solid heads of Timothy. We were now on a roll, following the tracks of creatures of the night across the field we soon found the more delicate grass, Red Fescue.

The magnifying glass was needed to identify the Common Bent from the Creeping Bent and proving that grass identification is not an easy game. However with persistence our wander through the grassland also added Perennial Rye Grass, Meadow Foxtail and False Oat Grass to our list. By this time we had already spent an intrigue hour and a half absorbed to the natural wonder that the Fields provide for us.

It is a real joy having this little bit of wildness in the middle of our village. For whatever reason, accident or design, this year has allowed us to experience the wonder of the natural world at work without human interference. What an asset this is to our physical and mental health. No doubt, sadly, the obsessive cult of tidiness will reimpose itself to both wildlife and human life's loss. Just seeing families with their children enjoying the wildness and freedom of the space, couples picnicking amongst the buttercups and bird song, and dog-owners with their dogs enjoying the multitude of delicious smells (the dogs that is), has given a vision of the area with deeper purpose beyond the additional and important car parking space for the village. It is hoped that there will be space for the wild, where the natural world can do it's thing and we humans can just watch, appreciate and discover those deeply satisfying levels of connection with the world around us.

"The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself." Henry Miller

(Guide to Common Grasses – published by Field Studies Council)

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