Monday, 24 September 2012

Snipes Dene regeneration 19 September 2012

Back in May, the Conservation Team planted a hundred or so oak saplings and a handful of other species left over from another job on a patch of Snipes Dene. The Dene had been left largely denuded when the Forestry Commission’s non-native conifers were felled about three or four years ago. In a not particularly thorough search, we found maybe a couple of dozen young oaks – many showing signs of nibbling. Presumably many others have not survived the rabbits.

Snipes Dene

One of the surviving Oak saplings
In September last year, we designated a small area of the Dene to monitor for natural regeneration. A work party did its best to rid the patch of Western Hemlock saplings which were growing profusely. A year later this invasive, foreign conifer is flourishing and will have to be uprooted soon if it is not to take over.
A patch of Western Hemlock
However, other, more welcome, native trees are also taking hold: oak, beech, holly and, quite extensively, birch. Much of the ground is bare and hard-packed, or is deep in brashing woven through with bramble.
Bramble  with blackberries
Although the area still has a barren look about it, foxgloves – now long skeletal fingers pointing skyward - are abundant and more than twenty other flowering species have appeared over the past twelve months, along with numerous hard ferns and male ferns, and more than seven identifiable species of fungi.

A Holly Tree becoming established
Hard Fern


Enchanter's Nightshade
Red Campion
Hawkweed sp.

Animal life seen here over the summer includes five species of butterfly and the common carder bumble bee, but some things that might be expected are missing: we have seen not one ant or woodlouse, though this embryonic woodland floor abounds with two small species of spider which must be eating something. Bones of rabbits and other small mammals are dotted around; Ranger Phil, on his early morning patrols, has often seen a fox family here who are most likely responsible. Life – and death – is returning to Snipes Dene.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Seahouses Ragwort Bash

We recently took a group of our volunteers to Seahouses to assist NT Northumberland coast rangers control the spread of ragwort on coastal grasslands.  The species rich grasslands had a diverse variety of flora including lots of ragwort which is toxic to livestock.  As these grasslands were to be cut for hay and the toxins persist after cutting and drying it was neccessary to remove the ragwort beforehand.  This we did by hand-pulling the smaller weaker plants and digging up the larger more robust ones.

Before we started

Volunteers Neil, Peter and Tim hard at work.

Ragwort is a native plant with clusters of yellow flowers and is a food plant of the cinnabar moth catterpillar of which we came across many.

Cinnabar moth catterpillar

Ragwort-free zone

The team all done and ready for home

After a hard days work the area was declared a ragwort-free zone and we headed back to Gibside with aching backs.