Winter is the time for habitat management. The ranger team are busy scrub bashing, and preparing for some hedge-laying.
We’re starting to wind up our winter work on the Skyline, finishing off areas of scrub clearing before the bird nesting season begins. We have cut huge amounts of brambles with the help of many of our brushcutter trained volunteers. After cutting, rangers and volunteers rake off the scrub and have bonfires. This work is essential for restoring and maintaining the rich grassland habitat which will be starting to come to life with wildflowers in the coming months.
There is some hedge-laying work still to do in the coming weeks on Rainbow Wood fields. When a hedge is laid, the tree is cut near the base, leaving only a thin section of the stem (called a pleacher) which allows the stem to be laid down horizontally. The tree can then regenerate from the base where it has been cut and will also have new growth along the length of the tree.
By laying down the trees in this way, it creates a more dense hedge and also increases the amount of new growth in the hedge. If a hedge was instead left to mature, in time, sections may die off leaving large gaps and the hedge may eventually be lost. A laid hedge is dense which makes it effective as a stock proof barrier but also makes it a brilliant habitat for birds, insects and small mammals. In some areas of the country, we have lost up to 50% of our hedgerows so it is important to conserve what we have left.
Here's a look back at some of work that has been going on in the last year.
The pond on the Balcony that was restored in Autumn 2016 is getting a bit of attention. Dead hedges have been laid to try and discourage dogs from jumping in, and there will be more planting to improve the water quality and provide habitat for invertebrates.
This month we are doing some of the usual summer jobs which include path cutting to make sure routes are accessible for visitors. When we cut alongside the paths, we make sure to rake off all the cuttings to ensure the fertility of the verges is kept low. This helps to increase the diversity of wildflowers which is brilliant for pollinating insects
The ranger team have also been working on some exciting seed collecting in the wildflower meadows.