Winter on Carmarthenshire Reserves

Working on our nature reserves in Carmarthenshire in winter seems to mean one of two things- wet feet, or steep hills! As our programme of habitat management reaches its winter season, we find ourselves busy with woodland management, and the control of willow and birch scrub in our wetland and grassland sites- safe in the knowledge that there are no breeding birds to disturb.

What you really find at the end of the rainbow

What you really find at the end of the rainbow LWilberforce

Our wetland sites have been really soggy all year with the unusually high rainfall that we’ve had, so clearing scrub now means negotiating the muddy, squelchy pastures and reedbeds to get to it- and so it is that the dedicated Carmarthenshire volunteers have stomped, waded, slipped, tripped and occasionally slithered their way around the reserves to achieve a huge amount in the last month.

We’ve cleared a fine area of the scattered willow scrub from the pastures of Rhos Cefn Bryn, which will encourage grazing next year and help open up the habitat for more grassland species. We’ve also cleared some of the already cut brash from an area of Cors Goch,  where marginal bog restoration has been underway for the last twelve months. The odd welly leak has been discovered and our waterproofs have been put to the test.

On Rhos Cefn Bryn, we have been burning the cut scrub in order to avoid stacking too much of the brash on the grassland margin- bonfires, of course, are not a waterproof’s best friend, with ashes drifting down in the cool air but retaining enough heat to melt holes in unattended clothing. Witness the yell that goes up when the wind changes direction and all our bags and coats are moved around to safety. There’s no denying though, that to have a fire to warm the hands is a welcome feature indeed on some of the cold December days.

As for the woodlands- it so happens that many of the county’s best woodlands are on steep slopes; often, the woodlands of highest value for biodiversity are often those that have escaped felling, because of their very inaccessibility and inconvenience to manage commercially.

We’ve been clearing the invasive rhododendron from Castle Woods, and have some work left to do to reduce the regeneration of beech in the oak woodlands of Gallt y Tlodion (Poor Mans Wood) near Llandovery.  Both sites are very steep in places. Rhododendron, which seems almost sentient in its perverse desire to grow in the least accessible place possible, is gradually losing the battle and we can feel another big bonfire coming on to get rid of the older timbers.

A huge thank you to everyone who has volunteered in Carmarthenshire in the last twelve months, and who has helped manage habitats, maintain public access, and deal with the occasional crisis in the form of broken locks, fallen trees and so on. We couldn’t manage these amazing sites without your help. And if you’ve never tried it- well, January 2013 is a great time to get involved and work off those mince pies! I know that’s what I’ll be doing. I look forward to seeing you there.

Lizzie Wilberforce