What have we been up to in 2017?
During 2017, we have been able to carry out important conservation work across the park that will in time greatly improve the diversity of trees and plants across the estate and create habitats that will attract a wide range of wildlife to Lyme. Here we have outlined some of the big projects we have been working on.
Through the latter months of 2017, the rangers felled Sitka spruce trees on the eastern corner of Knightslow Wood. This area of the wood has historically been used for timber production but many of the spruce have become too large to be viably kept as they are prone to being windblown. In Lyme's Woodland Management plan, a key objective has been to remove these trees and create more light and space for native broadleaf species, such as birch, alder and oak to develop.
Birch growth will be prolific in the early stages and is a hugely important species in that it provides food and habitat for more than 300 insect species, including ladybirds which prey on the aphids that feed on the leaves. Birds such as redpoll and greenfinch feast on birch seeds and there are also specific fungi associated with birch woods, such as fly agaric, woolly milk cap and birch polypore. We hope that we will soon see this area flourish.
Lime Avenue ponds
2017 was the year in which we finally completed work to restore the Lime Avenue ponds. This work had been a long time in the planning, due to the complexity of the project and the costs involved but with funding in place and a commitment to ‘get it done’ this was the year!
The ponds date back to at least 1730 as we have maps that show a body of water in the area. It is not clear however from the map what the ponds looked like. There is reference from 1810 of a series of three pools or pits, connected by sluices. We do know that the second Lord Newton, Thomas Wodehouse Legh had the ponds de-silted in the very early 1900s as they had ceased to function as ponds; they were then re-mapped in 1909. The 1909 map is the one we have based this restoration on, some features that were added in the 1980s were removed and what we have now is a functioning pond system that is as true to its historical form as possible.
Before the work started it was possible to walk past the ‘ponds’ and not even realise that they were there. They had become so over grown there was very little standing water. Now visitors will be able to enjoy their beauty, observe wildlife in and around them and transport themselves back in time whilst listening to the trickling water making its way down from the moors and through these delightful ponds.
Wildlife we expect to see using the ponds includes frogs, toads and newts, including the protected great crested newt. We also hope to see the grey wagtail, daubenton bats, dragonflies and damselflies. Calves Croft where the ponds are situated will re-open to the public in April. It is a fantastic part of the estate for wildlife and this project has just enhanced this even more.
Hasebank North Project
Another area of woodland the ranger team have worked on in 2017 is at Hasebank, located on West Park Drive, just passed the Knott Car Park.
The woodland was made up of even aged coniferous trees which were planted here with a dual purpose; to produce timber and for aesthetic reasons. They cast a heavy shade and prevent any saplings from becoming established, this means that all of these trees will come to the end of their lives at a similar period of time. By felling small groups of conifers, it allows us to begin to establish the next generation of trees now, thus making the woodland's future much more secure. Light can now reach the woodland floor, creating warm, sheltered conditions. Not only will this encourage the newly planted broadleaved trees to grow, it will also benefit wildflowers and insects. Whilst the trees are young, butterflies like the beautiful comma will enjoy basking in the sunlight which these areas provide. Once the trees get older they will begin to produce fruit for the birds in the autumn and nectar for a whole host of insects.
The five compartments have all been replanted with native broadleaf species and the saplings have established themselves with many starting to shoot out from the tree guards. As you can see from the photos all the compartments and the path along West Park have recovered well.