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It’s that time of year again: time for tackling invasive Himalayan balsam!  Yesterday we were out with Cheshire Wildlife Trust volunteers at the Sinderland Green site they manage (actually a National Trust site) to help with the continued battle against the invader.  Good progress has been made at this last site in recent years, so parts of the woodland are pleasingly free of balsam – all being well it can continue to be pushed back further each year.

 

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Replacing a boardwalk

This weekend we were back near Tittesworth Reservoir working with the Peak Park Conservation Volunteers.  Sadly, parts of a boardwalk we helped construct back in 2011 have now been condemned as having rotten supports, so this time we were replacing parts of the structure with a path.

We also had a chance to check on the progress of the hedge we worked on this past February and last October, and were pleased to see it’s doing well!  See updated pictures here.

A berm at Barton Moss

Sunday was a brightish and surprisingly chilly spring day with a frigid southeasterly blowing across Barton Moss and among the conifers of Hollinwood Scout Camp. This was our third visit here – we were given a warm welcome as ever and huddled around the Burco for a brew and biscuits before tackling our work which was a new activity: to create a Hugelkultur Berm(!).

Basically this is a method to create a raised mound for vegetative planting in areas of wet ground. The principle is to improve the drainage of the ground on the berm and to promote healthy plants. The ground of Barton Moss is flat and very wet even in dry weather. The earth is deep, rich and dark but a little too wet for any trees other than alder. So to create this feature you start by digging down (c. 15″) and removing the turf and soil. This is piled up alongside the ditch, with sods kept separate from the soil. Next the ditch is packed with chunky blocks and branches of wood to create a slight mound above the surrounding ground. This is the foundation of the berm. Now the soil is piled on top of the wood creating a long mound. The earth slips into the gaps of the wood and starts to mound up. One the soil is used up the sods are placed upside down on the surface; this helps hold the soil in place and allows the grass to decompose and feed the soil ready for planting later on. The edge of the berm is supported by horizontal logs, pegged in place to help keep the soil on top of the sunken timber.

The resulting feature creates a well drained planting area above a slowly decomposing buried pile of logs. This decomposition creates warmth and enhances release of nutrients into the soil.

This was an unusual but engaging task and on the day we completed it successfully. One volunteer also had time to go and re-tag and check the stakes of the saplings previously planted by the Scouts. We had a great lunch alongside a warming fire. Many thanks to our host at the site and to the volunteers who turned out!

Coppicing at Spud Wood

Today a few of us were out at Spud Wood, a Woodland Trust site.  We were continuing the coppicing of hazel we’ve been doing over the winter, in the better than expected weather! Buds are starting to burst for spring so this is possibly the last of the coppicing for this year.

Only a hardy few volunteers made it out in today’s rather dreary grey weather.  We were working at Chorlton Water Park on willow groynes at the edge of the lake.  These groynes provide an important wildlife habitat and help to prevent lakeside erosion.

We harvested willow from an existing groyne on one part of the bank and used that to create a couple more small groynes at the far end of the lake.  We also had a chance to see how the groyne we worked on a couple of years ago is now looking very established! 

Today we were at New Moss Wood, a Woodland Trust site.  This is a native woodland, planted about twenty years ago.  Alongside our woodland management tasks, we were pleased to find and learn a bit about the scarlet elf cup fungus (Sarcoscypha cocinea) – the red of which stood out beautifully against the green of the moss.

 

For our first weekend away of 2019 we were treated to a a beautiful sunny and snowy landscape on the edge of Tittesworth Reservoir!  Working with the Peak Park Conservation Volunteers, on Saturday we were coppicing willow in an area being managed as an important habitat for willow tit.  Then, on Sunday, we returned to the willow hedge that we began in October 2018, and extended it further along the shore.  This barrier, created by a combination of dead hedging and the laying of living willow, is to discourage disturbance by walkers and dogs of an area of the shore important for ground-nesting birds.

Update, May 2019: Back in the area for another weekend, we were pleased to see our hedge thriving and sprouting well!