Our Comms Officer Madison Bowden-Parry (MBP) caught up with Stephanie Coates (SC), our Wildlife Trust Officer for Brecknock, to hear the latest on Brecknock reserves, management and badger action over these past few months.
MBP: I loved hearing more about the Marsh Frit monitoring last month, do you have any more updates for us?
SC: Over the summer months, we spent several days on Allt Rhongyr, Cae Eglwys and Vicarage meadows clearing bracken and pulling seedling trees to conserve the wildflowers in these meadows. At Vicarage meadows we decided to graze off the meadows instead of mowing, and had a work party to cut and rake off the bracken by hand.
At tiny Cae Pwll y Bo we trialled a short period of grazing with the intention of creating a little bit of poaching to aid the spread of rare globeflowers. This also had the benefit of introducing invertebrate friendly dung but they didn’t eat all the tough rushes and we still had to cut and rake off what was left! The ponies were moved from Vicarage three miles up the road for a period of 5 days, so thanks to our graziers for helping us with this task!
At the Ystradgynlais sites with volunteers and staff time short we decided to prioritise tackling Himalayan balsam in Ystradfawr. One particularly keen volunteer Andrew did extra hours on it which really helped. The grazing of the various meadows is also vital particularly for the rare Marsh fritillary butterfly and this year a water bowser was needed to supplement water supplies as it was so dry.
We also had a fencing session at Wern Plemys, installing a corner post and some post and rail so the field can now be grazed!
MBP: It's great to hear that work parties are returning after a period of none at all, and that volunteers are working incredibly hard to help us protect and keep our reserves managed for everyone to enjoy. Have you encountered any barriers recently, with the return and lifting of restrictions?
SC: Unfortunately fly tipping is becoming more frequent at Pwll y Wrach, we have been receiving regular dumps of green waste. In August a load of lap fencing or shed, bed and plastic chairs were thrown over creating extra work for two of us and cost of time and disposal of the waste. We are considering installing CCTV at this car park!
MBP: It's disappointing to hear that, after all of the hard work that goes into keeping our wild spaces protected and resilient to changing world! Besides this, I've heard that you've also had your hands full with some badger-y action?! Can you update us on the project?
SC: Various projects have been underway at Castle Woods Nature Reserve this year, funded by the Dyffryn Tywi project (The Dyffryn Tywi project supports sustainable land management in the middle Tywi valley), but this project has funded us to vaccinate badgers within Castle Woods against bovine TB (bTB).
Badger vaccinating is, we believe, part of the humane answer to dealing with the spread of bTB within cattle. We are very conscious of the hardship that bTB causes in the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control the disease.
We have been vaccinating our badgers since 2014 (with a 2 year break when there was a global shortage of the vaccine). Funding from Welsh government paid for 50% of costs, but this came to an end last year. We were very grateful to the Dyffryn Tywi project for stepping in and helping to fund another years vaccination costs.
This year a total of 17 badgers were trapped and vaccinated. It is a great opportunity to see how our resident badgers are doing, and of the ones caught and observed they all seemed to be in good health with a good weight.
The project has also funded the replacement of a fence in South Lodge Woods, some hazardous trees above a footpath to be removed and some rhododendron control work. We are very grateful for their support.