Backwell Environment Trust

...10+ years of conservation, protection, improvement...

RESERVE MANAGEMENT

BET’s woodland management plan for both Jubilee Stone Wood and Badgers Wood has been devised with the aim of transforming two neglected, species-poor woodlands, into high quality nature reserves rich in plant and animal life.

Our six key objectives can be summarised as:

  • Reducing the incidence of non-native species
  • Reducing the dominance of native invasive species
  • Re-establishing habitats lost to scrub
  • Linking up and expanding existing woodland glades
  • The creation of new habitats
  • Improving access to the reserve

 

Reducing the Incidence of Non-native Species

Example: Turkey Oak

Turkey Oaks were introduced into England in 1735 from southern Europe and have spread rapidly especially on the well-drained, dry soils commonly found overlying limestone. They have grown particularly well on the reserves, often producing a dense shade that has restricted the growth of other native trees and plants. BET started a programme of gradual removal in 2013 which is still ongoing. As these trees slowly decay they will provide a valuable habitat that should benefit a wide range of wildlife including fungi, insects, birds and bats.

Reducing the Dominance of Native Invasive Species

Example: Bracken

Large areas of grassland on the upper sections of the reserves were initially inundated with dense glades of bracken, often found growing up to two metres high. Bracken is a native fern but left unchecked, it has had a highly detrimental effect on the survival of almost all of our grassland plants attempting to grow beneath its dense shade. Our aim therefore was to remove approximately 95% of the bracken, preserving the remainder around the edges of glades to serve as cover for birds and insects. Starting in spring 2007, bracken and its subsequent re-growth, was both pulled and ‘bashed’ (where the plant stems are physically hit with bats impregnated with nails) a total of thirteen times between May and September. Although it has taken nearly five years for us to get the upper hand, we are well on our way to reaching our 95% reduction target.

Re-establishing Habitats Lost to Scrub

During many of the winter seasons since 2006, BET has been removing selected areas of dense hawthorn and ash scrub to restore the land to species-rich limestone grassland.  The effect has been dramatic and the sheer number of flowering plants that have germinated in the fledgling meadows is extraordinary considering that the seeds have remained dormant in the soil for well over forty years. The restored meadows are now alive with plants and insects in the summer with a wide range of wildflowers typically found in limestone regions in evidence as well as an area of naturally occurring acidic soil containing two species of heather.  

Every year, usually starting in mid-August, all of the wildflower meadows are cut using hand scythes and the cut material raked off the grassland.  Over time, this has the effect of reducing the fertility of the soil which should encourage the wildflowers and reduce the vigour of the grass. Cutting also stops unwanted plants such as bramble and tree seedlings getting a foothold in the meadows.

Woodland Glades: Coppicing

Woodland glades have been created in many areas of our nature reserves by coppicing (cutting the trees at their base and allowing them to re-grow). This has created a series of warm, sunny micro-climates within the woodland which has led to the re-growth of long dormant plants. These areas have now been quickly colonised by birds and insects taking advantage of the sheltered conditions. Both Jubilee Stone and Badgers Wood also has large drifts of bluebells which have started to increase in number now more light has been allowed to reach the woodland floor.

Whenever possible, woodland glades have been linked together to make it easier for animals and plants to spread out through the nature reserves.

The creation of these warm, sheltered, flower-rich glades within the woodland has benefited many species of butterfly. Widespread species found on the reserve include the Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Common Blue, Ringlet, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary. Hopefully over the next few years, the woodland management work performed so far will continue to favour these amazing insects  resulting both in an  increase in  number  and  species recorded on the reserves.

The Creation of New Habitats

Example: Wildlife Ponds

The underlying rocks on BET’s reserves are predominantly made up of carboniferous limestone. This rock typically contains many faults and fissures and so consequently surface water associated with this type of geology is very rare.   Because a source of water is essential to all animals on the reserves, three wildlife ponds have been constructed, two in hollows created by the lead mining of the 17th century and one created out of an old livestock watering cistern. The ponds have been stocked with native, locally sourced pond plants and were very quickly colonised by aquatic creatures including frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies and damselflies.

Nest Boxes

The mixture of old and new woodland interspaced with the recently created glades and rides form an excellent habitat for a wide range of both birds and bats.  However suitable nesting locations in any woodland will always be in short supply, so to increase the number of nesting sites for both these species, BET has erected a substantial number of bird and bat boxes. This exercise has proved very successful and we have achieved an average 80% occupancy rate with the bird boxes during the spring season for raising their young.

Nine species of bat (identified by their echo-location frequencies) including the increasingly rare Greater and Lesser Horseshoe Bat use the reserve for both foraging and/or roosting.

Both woodlands have good populations of Hazel Dormice and we now have forty summer nesting boxes located throughout the woodlands. These are checked by a licensed dormouse handler from March to November and the results entered into the national database.

Improving Access to the Reserve

BET is committed to improving access to the woodland for all people including the less mobile, and so two ‘access for all’ trails have been constructed. Walkers and wheelchair users can now access some of the most scenic parts of the reserves on all-weather, secure, level paths. In addition to these trails, new pathways totalling almost 1km in length have been constructed throughout both woodlands to allow visitors to access some of the most beautiful areas the reserves have to offer. Benches have also been positioned along many of our trails.   

Task Calendar

Coppicing/hedgelaying/glade creation October to March
Path creation/bracken pulling/dry stone walling April to September
Cutting the wildflower meadows August to December

 

 

© 2017 Backwell Environment Trust