What we're doing this season
Winter is a time of preparation on the Skyline. Paths have been prepared through the autumn for the wetter weather, fields have been raked and everything checked to make sure its ship shape.
Late winter - early spring
This season, the main task is:
Grassland habitat management (or scrub bashing)
Scrub bashing is the colloquial name describing the removal of scrub from grassland. Scrub is any ‘woody’ plant, from brambles through to small trees that is spreading over grassland and engulfing it. Every winter Rangers and volunteers of the Bath Skyline clear large amounts of scrub from the rare calcareous limestone grassland pastures that have survived the agricultural changes of the 20th century.
The two notable pastures are Rainbow Wood fields, a set of four fields on the slopes between Prior Park and Rainbow Wood, and Sham Castle Down, a large area below Bathwick Wood and Sham Castle.
The ‘species rich’ wildflower grassland these pastures have in abundance is extremely rare, well over 90% nationally having been lost since around the 1930’s. This is due to changes in our agricultural landscape, such as ploughing of old ‘permanent pastures’, fertilising and spraying with chemicals.
Unmanaged grassland is subject to a process called succession, the gradual process by which ecosystems change and develop over time. Unmanaged grassland would see the gradual introduction of scrub, these species would eventually dominate, tree species would grow bigger, and the final habitat (the climax community) would be woodland.
By scrub bashing, we are halting succession and maintaining a mosaic of rich wildlife habitat. Our conservation grazing programme also helps to prevent the growth of these woody species. Look out for the Skyline rangers and volunteers scrub bashing over the next few months.
We're finishing up:
This winter, a 90-metre section in Bathwick Fields, above Richen’s Orchard, has been laid by Rangers and volunteers of the Skyline team. Hedge laying is always carried out in the winter as the sap is low and trees are dormant; this must be completed by early March when the bird nesting season starts.
A section of hedge is laid on the Skyline each year as part of hedgerow management. If a part of hedgerow is left unmanaged, it will continue to grow upwards and outwards and will eventually become a line of trees.