January Worky Day

Saturday, January 6th 2018

Although the freezing wind from the North was not as cold as anticipated, the water temperature in the Wetland ponds was too low for anyone to work in them, so the alternative tasks highlighted yesterday were put into operation.  Sixteen volunteers were out today and made an excellent contribution to managing some of the Reserve's habitats.

The volunteers split into three groups.  One group moved to the Heathland to scatter the three bags of heather seed taken from the North Pennines.  The Heathland is predomiantly the common Heather or Ling (Calluna vulgaris), and the seed contained this and one of the Erica species.  Ideally, the Heathland should contain both Erica species found in the Yorkshire Dales, North Pennines and the North York Moors, Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) and Cross-leaved heath (Erica tetralix).  By scattering the seed this should diversify the heathland plant community.

Each of the heathland sections was further divided using tape so that the seed in each bag could be shared to give the same coverage of seed in each area.  This was particularly important in those areas where there was little or no heather growing, while a more random pattern was used to fill in gaps among the taller heather.

The seed was broadcast by hand, and is so fine that it had to be released very close to the ground to make sure that the wind could not take it too far.  After a while, we became quite proficient in using the wind to help get a good spread.  We will need to go back into the heathland during this week to cut the Birch and Willow that is growing there together with the small patches of Gorse remaining after Lark and Taurus had been there.  This will help work some of the Heather seed into the ground so that we will have a mix of seed on the surface and in the soil which should give a good chance for it to grow.

Another group went to the bullet catcher to burn the cuttings that had been left there from previous work.  Given how wet it had been in the last few days, lighting a fire was easier said than done, and it took the best part of the morning session to get the fire going.

But once it did get going, we were well away and all the cuttings that had built up over the last few months were burnt, together with rotten timber that could no longer be used around the reserve.  Care was taken with the fire to keep it sufficiently small not to cause heat damage to the surrounding trees.

The third group completed the Gorse clearance job near to Hague Bridge.  One side of the footpath still needed the Gorse to be cleared and there were other small patches which, when cut, would add to those removed just over a week ago.  All of this was then also burnt, leaving a much more open area amongst the trees.

This was a really good day's work, with all of the work targets achieved, and everyone both enjoying themselves and feeling that a good job had been done.  A big thank you to all the volunteers today for a huge effort which has made a significant contribution to managing the reserve's habitats.

Doing these tasks rather than the ponds proved a good decision - a final quick job was to unblock the inlet to the Vole Ponds, and, although this only took 10 seconds, it took a lot longer for hands to warm up again!


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