Scraping by at Southwood Woodland

Today I’ve been out with our tractor finishing of the main meadow hay cut that Stu started on Friday.  I tackled the Common Reed (Phragmities australis) at the wetter end, which I’m pleased to say that after 3 dry days it cut and collected well.

Cutting reeds

After lunch I headed over to the north heath. After all the hard work of the volunteers over the last few years cutting back encroaching scrub, the heather is gradually extending south into the acid grassland.

North heath

Where the grass species are well established, it can be hard for the heather to compete. So today I used the tractor to remove the topsoil and rough ‘turf’ to create 50m2 of scrapes. This management looks drastic, but is great at promoting the heather regeneration since the seeds can remain dormant in the soil for decades. We can also supplement this by collecting and spreading the adjacent heather seeds with our volunteers.

Collecting the topsoil

Newly created scrapes on north heath

The topsoil was put to good use, by covering up the now camouflaged wood pile on the right of the photo above. Soil or woodchip topped log piles are ideal at creating hibernacula sites for our reptiles on site, and are great for small mammals and invertebrates as well.

I was great to get some more tractor experience, with some very careful weaving around heather and stumps. The quiet lunch break was a novelty complete with hornets, long-winged cone-headed bush crickets, small copper butterflies and an army of frogs.

Acting Senior Ranger Stuart

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About blackwatervalleycountryside

The Blackwater Valley is located on the borders of Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire and runs for approximately 30km from the source near Aldershot, northwards to Swallowfield. At its confluence it joins the rivers Whitewater and Loddon. The Loddon eventually flows into the River Thames near Reading. Work in the Blackwater Valley is co-ordinated by the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership on behalf of the local authorities that border the Valley. Despite being surrounded by urban development the Valley provides an important green corridor for local residents As well as the Blackwater Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a small part of the Basingstoke Canal SSSI, three nature reserves within the Valley catchment and many other areas have been recognised for their ecological importance. The local planning authorities covering the Valley have designated 31 other areas as ‘Wildlife Sites’.
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