Conservation tasks in November 2017

Mowing, bramble bashing, path clearing, tree felling…

What? Cut the orchard grass

Where? Orchard behind the farm house

Why? Long-term management for wildflowers

We no longer graze this area, so we have to cut it  occassionally. We’re mosaic mowing it most of the year (a bit like the lodge field) but now it’s time to cut even the long bits – hopefully it’ll be the last cut this year. The grass is very dominant in the orchard, but our long term aim is to get more wildflowers. The bits left long this year had yellow rattle flowering in them early in the summer (first sown autumn 2016). Rattle is an annual, and the seeds will have dropped, but if we leave the tussocky grass the yellow rattle wont have the right conditions to come back next spring.  So we’re cutting and removing the grass – quite a job given our lack of machinery and the wet ground. Eventually rattle should get well established and its semi-parasitic nature should weaken the grass. Here’s hoping.

What? Cut encroaching brambles

Where? Popehouse Moor SSSI, near the entrance

Why? To maintain the grassland

Our grazing cows don’t really eat the brambles and if we leave them they take over. Some sizeable clumps have got established in the open grass and around the fringes of the wood. This winter (2017-18) we’ll be cutting some of these back. As ever, it’s a question of timing and care. In November it’s just possible dormice might still be using the brambles. But if we leave it later we could be working in a quagmire. So we work with attention, using a scythe on the low stuff and a hedgetrimmer on the higher clumps.

What? Clearing a bank of brambles and nettles

Where? At the side of the fishing pond

Why? Routine management

It’s the best time of year to do this without too much disturbance, especially as we know dormice have used this area in the past. This bank is left pretty wild but has to be kept slightly in check. We did find an empty summer dormouse nest, and also something that might be a harvest mouse nest (we hope so), so that’s encouraging.

What? Clearing a new path

Where? From Otter Cottage garden…

…to the recently re-dug pond that was once part of the farm’s slurry system.

Why? To open up access…

…and to encourage us to get on with developing this area more for wildlife. We want to make sure the willows aren’t completely overshadowing the lovely ferns, to add a bench so this area becomes one of our ‘secret spaces’, and to manage the nettles, so there are plenty for the butterflies in the sunshine but also other wetland flowers like meadow sweet. That could take some time though.

What? Felling an ash

Where? Behind Beech Lodge

Why? Tree safety

This ash was one of those that got strangled by previous owners use of tyres on young saplings.  But although the main trunk was weak and becoming a danger, there are young shoots at the bottom. So if we’re lucky, these will grow back.

What? Felling a willow and trimming an oak

Where? Bank by the car park

Why? Tree safety…

The willow had partly split so we have cut it back.  We’re also thinking about longer term plans for this area.