Derrington Millennium Green is located approximately one mile south-west of the town of Stafford, within the Parish of Seighford. In 1998 the land was bought collectively by Derrington village through money raised by millennium grants and converted to a public open space. The land includes a small meadow covering a total of 1.92 hectares, which has undergone hay strewing to create a more diverse grassland sward. As part of this process 6 inches of top soil was removed exposing the subsoil. The soil remains on site and has been distributed on the edges of the site, creating banks on which trees have been planted as part of a tree planting scheme. The land also includes a small pond, a herb garden and a willow maze. The diversity of species typical of lowland unimproved hay meadows which have colonised following hay strewing has lead to the meadow being designated as a Site of Biological Importance (SBI).
It is known that prior to 1965 the meadow was in arable production, following which it was reverted to grassland and cattle grazed throughout the year with very little fertiliser input. In 2000 the meadow was hay strewn, with hay sourced from the National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) Mottey Meadows, situated approximately 1.5 miles north-west of Wheaton Aston. Mottey Meadows supports an alluvial flood meadow, overlying free-draining soils which are subject to winter flooding. The grassland at Mottey Meadows is typically rich in species and is predominantly characteristic of the MG4 Meadow Foxtail-Great Burnet (Alopecurus pratensis-Sanguisorba officinalis) grassland National Vegetation Classification (NVC) Community. Following hay strewing the meadow at Derrington Millenium Green has undergone a cutting regime, with late cutting carried out to promote re-seeding by later flowerers and the arisings left in situ, with no after-math grazing. The meadow has a species-rich and diverse sward of grasses and herbs. Amongst the grasses crested dog's-tail is the most abundant and, sweet-vernal grass, yellow oat-grass, common bent, Yorkshire fog, meadow foxtail, quaking grass are all frequent with perennial-rye grass less frequent and in smaller amounts. Hard, jointed and soft rush occur patchily at a low frequency, with sedges and field woodrush abundant in the stand. Carnation sedge and glaucous sedge form sedge lawns particularly in the slightly sloping areas towards the northern end of the field.
Rosette species such as common catsear, ribwort plantain, autumnal hawkbit, hoary plantain, daisy and fox and cubs are prominent, these are overtopped by species such as great burnet, field scabious, betony, common knapweed, oxeye daisy and devil's bit scabious which are for the majority frequent. Fairy flax, creeping buttercup, hop trefoil, lesser stitchwort are also plentiful with smaller amounts of lady's bedstraw, common bird's-foot trefoil and selfheal. Yellow rattle is also frequent, this is an ideal plant for meadows being semi-parasitic on grass results in it keeping the grasses in check by feeding off their roots. Unlike most meadow flowers, this is an annual and is thus dependent on producing enough seed for the next year. Common spotted orchids and southern-marsh orchids also create a spectacular display occurring patchily amongst the sward
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Site of Biological Importance (SBI)
Villagers are celebrating because their community green has been recognised for its wealth of wildlife by a county conservation charity.
Staffordshire Wildlife Trust has recommended Derrington Millennium Green, on the outskirts of Stafford, be designated as a Site of Biological Importance (SBI) – which means it is officially one of the most diverse and species-rich areas in the county.
The news is especially rewarding to Derrington residents. It reinforces the success of a community project launched almost 10 years ago to change the 4.6 hectare site into a Millennium Green.
Volunteers worked tirelessly to raise enough cash to buy the land from a local farmer and, after a year, with help from a number of grants and vigorous fund raising locally, they managed to reach their target.
Once they had bought the site, the volunteers set to work to transform it into a peaceful community area which also had nature conservation value.
One of the projects which has helped them secure SBI status was the creation of two wildflower meadows covering two hectares of the site. To do this hay harvested from a nearby national nature reserve, Mottey Meadow, was spread, mainly by hand , by a large group of volunteers. This has resulted in tens of thousands of rare native seeds being scattered across that part of the site.
Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Sites Officer Judith Weightman explained: “The Wildlife Sites Coordinator David Cadman and I conducted a survey of Derrington Millennium Green to find out which species were thriving. We found that a diverse range of plant species had colonised the site because of the hay spreading, which is great news. Although SBIs carry no legal protection, they are very valuable and are recognised within planning policies and guidance, so that any development likely to adversely affect them is not normally permitted.”
The Trust has written a full report detailing the species that can be found at the site, which includes a range of native grasses, devil’s bit scabious, lady’s bedstraw and even the spectacular common spotted and southern marsh orchids.
One of the trustees of the project, said: “Derrington Millennium Green has been a real community success story. When we did the hay spreading, many villagers turned up to help, and they will be pleased that all their hard work has been worthwhile .”
In addition to the two hectare meadow area, Derrington Millennium Green also includes a pond, herb garden, willow maze, and a community orchard that has been planted with many varieties of apples, pears, cherries, plums and nuts. All of the trees were individually sponsored and are mainly old species that are the origin of many modern varieties. 'Ashmead Kernel' for instance, is the origin of the modern 'Braeburn' apple.
Finch Family = Chaffinch – Goldfinch – Greenfinch
Grebe Family = Little Grebe
Owl Family = Tawny - Barn
Thrush Family = Mistle Thrush – Song Thrush
Tit Family = Blue Tit – Coal Tit – Great Tit – Long Tailed Tit
Wagtail Family = Grey Wagtail – Pied Wagtail
Woodpecker Family = Greater Spotted