Yesterday we spent the morning pulling out and cutting back ragwort with the Thursday volunteers on the western shore of Ibsley Water. Why do we pull it you might ask? Well ragwort contains toxins which are poisonous to horses, cattle and sheep, in addition landowners have a legal obligation to control it (where it is spreading on to adjacent land) under the 1959 Weeds Act and the 2003 Ragwort control Act.
Ibsley Water is grazed by horses to help maintain grassland habitats beloved of waders, wildfowl and starlings, so we spend a fair amount of time controlling ragwort at this time of year. Given the size of Ibsley Water (Hampshire’s largest lake) and the amount of grassland surrounding it (roughly 24 acres) we would have no hope of achieving anything without our volunteers, so thank you to everyone who helped yesterday.
Ragwort is a native British wildflower and a fantastic nectar source for insects so we leave plenty in areas not grazed by horses and where it is not likely to spread onto land adjacent to the reserve. We also found lots of other wildflowers around Ibsley Water yesterday including selfheal, birdsfoot trefoil, common century and some of the largest bee orchids I’ve ever seen.
We’ve now recorded 32 bee orchids on the reserve, although more than half have been eaten by the large local populations of fallow deer and rabbits (both non-indigenous species in Britain), as well as a single southern marsh orchid (also eaten by a fallow deer), several pyramidal orchids and broad leaved helleborines.