• Claire Stott

A day out at Trentham Gardens

A couple of weeks ago, during our recent half term break we decided to take a trip out to Trentham Gardens in Stoke on Trent. This large estate of over 300 acres was the seat of Trentham hall, a grand country house built in the 1800s. Now the hall itself lies in ruin, but the remaining land has been lovingly restored to become home to some of the finest and more impressive gardens in Britain.

The clocktower and remains of Trentham hall 

We began at the lakeside. Here a large artificial lake is bordered with wildflowers such as these towering bulrushes, their huge fluffy seed heads swaying in the breeze. A spider had taken advantage of this lofty plant, constructing an impressive web between the stems to catch the flying insects which call the lake home.

There was a disappointing lack of wildlife to be found around the lake itself, aside from a few mallard ducks and this wood pigeon who landed briefly on the stone wall nearby.

Nevertheless I did spot this pair of large red damselflies busy creating the next generation. The male (above) is mating with the female (below) as she lays her eggs on the lily pad below. Sadly I wasn’t able to get any closer than this without getting wet!

We didn’t attempt the mile or so of lakeside walk during our visit, and chose instead to soak up the scenery of the nearby gardens from a comfortable bench to save our legs!

Leaving the lake behind we soon found ourselves in the Italian garden, home to 400 varieties of plants and flowers, neatly cultivated and arranged in carefully tended beds. This garden is home to many ornamental grasses as well as perennial flowers in subtle earthy tones of green, brown and white.

These elegant sea squill stood tall above the carpet of flowers below, rather like emergent trees breaking through a rainforest canopy.

More towering sea squills against a foreground of vibrant bluestars, or amsonias.

The trellis walk can be seen in the background here, it’s iron framework entangled with wysteria flowers. In the foreground, a border of strange bulbous green flowers from the Turkish sage plant.

Bizarre looking Sicilian honey garlic, a member of the allium family, also known as ornamental onions.

In another border, I found another type of allium with a beautiful white globe flower head. This is the ‘white giant’ variety.

These delicate pink common bistort flowers grow in dense, tightly packed beds and provide a subtle splash of colour among the natural hues.

A honeybee landing to feed on pollen.

A bed of beautiful and striking wild blue irises with their distinct, drooping petals.

Bold and bright dame’s violets.

Whilst I do enjoy photographing flowers, I must admit I am far more interested in the creatures that live around them and feed on them, the pollinators. Here at Trentham bees were in abundance, with many different species seen darting from flower to flower, the air filled with the hum of their wings.

There were even a few ‘new’ species which I haven’t photographed before, such as this striking southern cuckoo bumblebee. Cuckoo bumblebees, as their name suggested, lay their eggs in the nests of other bumblebee species which will then raise the cuckoo offspring.

The smooth rear legs (lacking pollen baskets – the hairs used to collect and transport pollen) and distinct yellow and white banded tail of the cuckoo bumblebee.

This was another new species for me, the unmistakable ashy mining bee with black and white stripes.

A white tailed bumblebee. These have very bright yellow, black and white banding with a crisp white tail. They can be often be confused with the garden bumblebee, but this has a yellow band across the middle of the body.

Early bumblebees, a small species with orange tails. This individual is a male.

This duller individual is a worker, clambering among these chive flowers to collect pollen and nectar to take back to the nest.

Another common species, the buff tailed bumblebee. These tend to have more buff coloured rather than bright white tails.

Another bumblebee which I can’t accurately ID, possibly another cuckoo species.

As well as the bumblebees there were also several solitary bees, such as this red mason bee in flight.

With my long-suffering husband following, I couldn’t stop at every flower and insect as I would have liked, but I am quite happy with the images captured, including my first photo of a beautiful orange tip butterfly!

Unfortunately this individual (a male) looks to be nearing the end of his short life, his wings tattered and the colours faded.

I will certainly be visiting again next time we are in the area, and definitely intend to explore the gardens and lakeside in much more depth!

For more information on the Trentham Estate visit www.trentham.co.uk

— All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2019 © www.greyfeatherphotography.com

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#butterflies #outdoors #trenthamgardens #summer #macro #bumblebees #photography #nature #insects #flowers #gardens

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