The Danbury Commons and Blakes Wood are highly managed habitats. People have grazed their animals for wool, meat and milk on the commons, and in the woodlands, for hundreds of years. Timber was harvested for building houses, war ships, hurdle fences and other crucial everyday items.
The habitats which are present on these sites have been shaped by man. Wildlife and plants have learnt to adapt to our interaction and seasonal harvesting. The three main habitats we work to maintain and restore are lowland heath, ancient coppice woodland and ponds.
Lowland heath is a rare and important habitat in the UK. At Danbury we've been working tirelessly to restore this precious heathland. On Danbury common we cannot manage the land by grazing as the common rights prohibit fencing sections for livestock, so we use tractors.
Essex Rangers have been working in partnership with Essex Wildlife Trust, other local landowners and volunteers as part of the Danbury Ridge Living Landscape. The idea of the project is for partners to work together using their common conservation goals to manage the area for wildlife on a landscape-based scale. This means we can work towards connecting fragmented habitats and restore large areas where wildlife can thrive. Over the winter we've managed scrub for nightingales, helped to restore local wildlife meadows and planted a hedge which is now acting as a wildlife corridor at Pheasant House Farm.
Traditionally coppicing trees, which meant cutting the trunks just above ground level, would have been common practice in winter to allow for plentiful regrowth in the spring. You leave the stems to grow back for different lengths of time depending on what you are going to use the wood for. Trees are coppiced for firewood, thatching spars, hurdle fencing and fence posts amongst other things.
At Danbury Common, the ponds provide a great habitat for a wide range of wildlife such as newts, frogs and grass snakes. They also provide the perfect nursery for dragonfly larvae.
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