Scrub bashing on Popehouse Moor SSSI

[Maggie] We’ve taken a huge stride forward in habitat management this year. But now it’s time to finish the job by tidying up! We’ve been burning brash from our ‘scrub bashing’.

We have a lot of really overgrown hedgerows on the farm, and in Popehouse Moor SSSI the willows have ‘fall off’ the Devon banks, and branches have taken root in what should really be grassland. Too much willow isn’t good for wet grassland – it sucks the water from the ground, transpiring it through leaves, drying out the soil.

If you’ve been on a guided tour here, you may not agree with botanist Mary Breeds, who last year told us the site would be better wetter, but we’ve taken her advice and cut back some of the invasion.

My Dad started it over Christmas – with just a bow saw. Inspired by the potential that small difference made, we had 2 days chainsaw work done. That’s by no means all of it, and we don’t want to hit it all too hard in one go. But it has revealed some of the old hedge boundaries, and will significantly increase the grassland area.

Now we have to get the branches off the ground before the spring comes. If the birds start nesting there we won’t be able to shift them. And the boughs will set root in the wet ground again, making the problem worse than ever.

So it’s been bonfire time…

And for anyone who’s thinking ‘what a waste’, we’ve saved what we could, as you can see in the wood pile. Our trouble is getting it off the moor and back up to the house where we can burn it. There’s no vehicle access and the ground is boggy.

Log by log then? Lots more excuses to go down to this special place!