I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of a very special piece of land that many dog owners in Lichfield will know and love. It is a very popular dog walking area and I walk it at least 4 or 5 times a week, depending on my work commitments.
You can find out more about into the website at www.pipegreentrust.org
Pipe Green is an area of meadowland that is today enjoyed by many Lichfield residents. Since medieval times, it has been used for animal grazing and as a result, is one on the few remaining examples of unimproved meadowland within Staffordshire. Today it is managed under a Higher Level Stewardship scheme to maintain this rare habitat.
Many of the visitors to Pipe Green enjoy the tranquility of the Green and the unspoilt views to the cathedral; a perspective that must have hardly changed since medieval times. What maybe less obvious to visitors, is the variety of ecological habitats that exist on the Green, which support a wealth of plants, birds as well as invertebrates and fungi. This has led to Pipe Green being registered as a Site of Biological Importance (SBI).
The land is what is known as ‘common land’ and has grazing rights to maintain this protected status. Every Spring, a number of cattle are allowed to free roam on the area and it is their grazing that helps to maintain this meadowland.
This year, the wild flowers have been wonderful. It is special to see examples of meadowland such as this, that have been simply grazed and left untouched.
Every year, in late May, I look out for orchids. There re usually a couple, but often the cows get to them pretty quickly, sadly. This year, it has been spectacular and, for some reason, the cows have not really grazed these areas, meaning these beauties have been able to flourish. In the 20 yrs I have lived in the area, this is the very best show of orchids that the area has had. There must be well over 100 at the moment, in a couple of different areas. These are Early purple and Common Spotted orchids.
There have been a couple of super birds recently too. In March , we had a Little Egret hang around the marsh area for almost a month. It was very easy to spot and I got some lovely views of it. I have also had a couple of glimpses of kingfishers down on a drainage pipe that empties into shallow pool area. Then last month, a real treat… a Grasshopper warbler. I must admit I did not manage to see this warbler, but its call is so distinctive that I recognised it straight away! This video (not mine, but from YouTube by ‘Boney’s Beasties) shows it well and you can hear its call, often known as ‘reeling’.
According to the West Midlands Bird Club there were only a few hundred sightings of this species in the whole of Staffordshire last year, so this was a real treat to hear.
The great thing about walking an area regularly is that you become familiar with the wildlife and the changes that occur throughout the year. My walk also encompasses the adjoining Leomansley Woods and this year, I have noticed a big increase in jays. There were some fledglings in there this week, making a right racket! It is great to see this rather beautiful member of the corvid family so regularly now. I have also seen a lot of buzzard in the area and a tawny owl!
If you live in the area, it is well worth a visit…. and look out for the orchids as they still look spectacular!