Hello there. It’s been a couple of months since we last posted an update, so here we’ll let you know what we’ve up to that’s kept us away from blogging and a little bit about what to expect in the coming months.
This autumn and early winter has since one of the bigest ever projects for our team, not at Petts Wood but at Wrotham Water Farm. Besides being a large and productive arable farm close to the M20/M26 junction, the rangers manage some beautiful and valuable chalk grassland and ancient woodland. Parts of the property are a Site of Special Scientific Interest, designated because of the range and importance of wildlife, including wild flowers and insects. With government funding through the Higher Level Stewardship scheme, we have been clearing large areas of scrub where it has started to threaten our open grassy areas. Without regular management areas of grass can be lost to scrub and woodland, and with it those species that depend on open conditions. I hope you can see from the picture below the contrast between grassland on the right and the scrubby area in the middle.
So, we have used contractors, the rangers and of course our volunteers to clear around four hectares of thick scrub (picture if you can an area the size of four football pitches covered in scrub….). The contractors used excavators to grub the scrub out by the roots, which has then been burnt up. Our team have been busy with brush cutters, loppers and bowsaws clearing other areas. The scrub clearace finished this week, the results of which can be seen in the photos below.
In these cleared areas there is now bare ground, with isolated patches of grass where it has held on in amongst the scrub. Next spring and summer we will graze these areas with sheep and cattle to suppress any scrub regrowth and grass will be allow to grow on. In these open areas the important wildlife found on the grass nearby should return.
So, this project has kept us from any major work at Petts Wood for a couple of months. We’ve just concentrated on the basics such as keeping things clean, tidy and free from litter, as well as tidying up after the high winds we’ve had. After Christmas we’ll be concentrating on our last patch of oak thinning in the Willett Wood. Here we’ll clear more holly and thin a proportion of weaker oaks, as we’ve been doing for the last three years. Other work will include a bit more path widening in the Edlmann Wood (where some stretches of path are very dark, wet and muddy) and our usual tree surgery to keep our path edge trees safe and stable.