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Heathland Horticulture

Thursday, April 12th 2018

As with many British habitats heathland is very much threatenend with over 80% of lowland heaths having been destroyed since the 1800s.

Traditionally used by people for grazing livestock and the gathering of once essential materials such as Gorse, Bracken, Bilberries and Fungi, heathlands have declined in recent years as long-held traditions have been lost to modern day life.

This is particularly worrying due to the vast array of species that depend on heathland to survive. Correctly managed Heath has drier, sandy areas home to Green Tiger Beetles, wetter areas providing anchorage for sphagnum moss - which in turn retain water and provide essential nutrients - and Heather found throughout and providing a valuable source of nectar for pollinator species.

Even the bare patches of ground found in the Heath provide shelter for basking reptiles and ground nesting birds, such as Nightjar and Dartford Warbler.

Low-impact management through the grazing of ponies, heather reseeding and scrub clearance is how we will ensure that our Heath continues to thrive and remains a valuable asset for the reserve.

As you may have guessed, today's volunteer task was comprised of tidying up and continuing scrub clearance activities on the Heath. 

The quick and easy bit of the job has been getting the brushcutter into the larger open areas where Ash, Birch and Willow saplings have been coming through, and outcompeting the Heather.

The difficult bit has been removing the saplings and Bramble suckers that are intertwined with the Heather, and as such must be removed individually and by hand.

Although difficult, slow work it has been very rewarding to look behind you at the bits you've completed, with much of the two adjoined paddocks now finished. It won't take long for our Tuesday volunteers to finish the job!


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