The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry – by Laura Tedstone, Living Landscapes Officer (South)
“You can plan and have planned contingency but when the weather and nature is in control you never know what is around the corner. February’s plethora of storms saw all plans change and change again when it came to habitat management over the southern reserves.
Raisby Hill Grassland – one of our primary magnesian limestone nature reserves.
The volunteers have been working hard removing encroaching scrub from banksides thus halting succession. The open grassland banksides of the disused quarry sustain a flora which includes a large number of orchid species including the rare dark red helleborine. There is also common rock rose which supports the northern brown argus butterfly.
Low Barns – path repairs and yet again more path repairs.
Storms Ciara and Dennis caused large areas of the path network around Low Barns to be washed away. The force of the River Wear gauged out deep channels washing away the top dust as well as the hard core of the paths. The volunteers were tasked with the repairs not once but twice with all other plans put on hold so that the paths could be made safe and kept open. They did a fantastic job shovelling and cleaning up the debris all over site. Additional drainage was put in place and existing drainage channels reinstated. Yes, we know it will happen again but at least for now everyone can walk around safely and enjoy the signs of spring that are slowly evolving.
Hedleyhope Fell – fence replacement.
At least 30m of fence had to be replaced along the fell to keep livestock safe due to a traffic accident which wiped out the stock proof fencing. The volunteers were quick to react rallying together to repair and replace where needed. Due to road conditions this is the second time this has happened but due to grazing of the site repairs are always a priority and must be actioned immediately.
The Whinnies – scrub management.
The species rich grassland was being encroached by scrub. This has been cut back in places by a contractor with the help a grant. The volunteers have then been carrying on the management and also laying the cut scrub into dead hedges providing a new habitat for invertebrates and ground foraging birds.
The wind has brought down a number of trees which have either blocked paths or were hanging dangerous above paths. Thanks to site wardens who report regularly any issues on the nature reserves teams of volunteers set off to Hedleyhope Fell and the Whinnies to cut down and remove a couple of these windblown trees. At Low Barns they also selectively felled ash which had succumbed to die back and dangerously dropping limbs. Felling has produced an open corridor or woodland ride habitat which provide a warm edge for invertebrates and allow the sunlight to come in and space for under story to develop. It acts as a transitional area between the path and woodland and provides valuable habitat where communities who like both grassland and woodland can blend together.”