Today our monthly Wildlife Rangers group got stuck into clearing an area of nettle and bramble outside the back of the Education Centre, making the path around the back of the pond area more accessible and the picnic benches less enclosed.
We became slightly distracted when we found a tiny baby newt and a toad. Depending on when the eggs were laid, some baby newts will leave the pond at some point during the summer once their feathery gills have been absorbed, and they look more like newts and less like miniature dragons. After taking their first steps on land, they will be feeding up on insects, slugs and spiders in preparation for the colder winter months.
After lunch Poppy and Jackson had a go at delving into the pond whilst James, Cameron, Edie, and Bella collected some fire wood and made everyone a hot drink using the Kelly Kettles. We’re practicing now in time for colder weather!
It was then time to finish off our bramble clearing task and tidy all the tools and equipment away.
Thanks to everyone for all your hard work!
On the wildlife front, Geoff Miller sent across this photo of the Hummingbird Hawkmoth which has visited the buddleia by the pond over the last couple of days. We did keep an eye out for it today but sadly there was no sign, although there were plenty of butterflies to watch instead! Thanks Geoff!
Can I ask why it was felt neccssary to cut down all the brambles at this time of year just as they are providing much needed food and shelter for overwintering wildlife? Wouldn’t it have been better to leave it until early spring to do this?
I sat there yesterday and it was lovely I also walked all around the back of the pond without getting scratched.
I cannot uderstand the current “Lets cut it down attidute ” of the trust.
We are being asked to leave as much of our gardens wild but when we go to our wild places they are being tidied and in some places decimated.
Please stop it
I must admit I was not aware that the Trust had a “Lets cut it down attitude” and I confess I do a lot of cutting down! Generally we find that the rate of growth on sites far exceeds our ability to cut it back. In many open habitats maintaining the open nature in the face of invading scrub is a full time job. At Blashford we seek a mosaic of woodland, scrub and open habitats, but despite this monitoring shows that we are losing open areas. We are unable to graze many areas so some form of cutting is the best substitute. As to timing, we find varying it the safest policy, so never cut the whole of an area at the same time and obviously avoid the nesting season. It is undoubtedly true that whenever we work on the reserve there are winners and losers, some species like it more open, some more over grown, variety of approach will hopefully offer the greatest opportunity to the most species. Of course much of the reserve is “left alone” so here we can leave dead trees and let nature take its course, only intervening to do tasks such as removing rhododendron and cherry laurel. It is all about trying to maximise the potential to support a diverse range of wildlife across a range of interwoven habitats. The reserve is “artificial” we do intervene to maintain the range of habitats that would be lost if we did not, in an ideal world we would be working at such a scale that such micro intervention would be unnecessary.
The nearby New Forest shows how the actions of grazing animals and natural events can provide much of this diversity without the need for so much intervention, there clearings appear and are colonised in an endless cycle as trees fall and grazing pressure varies over time. On a relatively tiny reserve we can only mimic this kind of diversity by actively making it. What we really need are more landscape scale areas where we let natural processes, or something close to them, provide the full range of habitats.
Great to hear you are a keen wildlife gardener, gardens are a vital cog in our living landscapes and offer a huge range of opportunities in a small space, everyone should have a wildlife garden! I do and I have just been cutting part of my tiny “meadow” leaving a section for the grasshoppers and some to overwinter as dead stems for hibernating insects, the rest is cut to encourage a range of flowers and supress coarse grasses.
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Hi Carol, thank you for your comments regarding our cutting back activity on Sunday. We felt the area around the back of the pond had become overgrown and although it was still passable (just!), we do use this area with groups and children and felt it necessary to cut back the nettles and brambles to widen the path. That said, we have only widened the path slightly and there is still plenty of nettle and bramble behind the area which we have cleared. The area closer to the picnic benches has received a little more clearance, but again there is still plenty of vegetation behind and next to this spot providing food and shelter for wildlife. In addition to improving access for our visitors, clearing this patch of bramble has allowed more light to reach the ground beyond which will benefit invertebrates, reptiles and other low growing plants, including the wild strawberries which used to abound in this area before the pendulous sedge, nettles and brambles shaded it out.
I appreciate your suggestion that we might have waited until Spring to do the work but with at least a good month or two left in the “growing season” I am not confident that there would have been a path left at the back of the pond to maintain by then!
Whilst the nature reserve is managed for the wildlife, we do have to maintain certain areas for access as well and the area at the back of the centre, which is used frequently by visitors and groups, is one of those areas. There are still plenty of wild places here for the wildlife, but by necessity these tend to be out of the way of the relatively small proportion of the nature reserve that is used by people.
Your comment suggests that there are other aspects of management work, either here at Blashford or at other nature reserves that you do not agree with and we would be very happy to explain the rational behind any of these if you would like to contact us about them.
In the meantime, thank you for your on-going support of the Trust – and of our county’s wildlife by your own actions in your garden!