As spring approaches we are starting to wrap up our winter habitat work. We are coming to the end of the 5 yr Better Woodlands Wales grant scheme and management plans which have driven much of our woodland work since 2008. This winter we limbered up coppicing in the Bishopston Valley on contract to National Trust who are keen to use our skills and expertise for the benefit of their woodlands.
We then moved on to our own sites and began with coppicing in Hambury Wood. The season then became rather more haphazard with post-storm checks on reserves and reactive work, but productivity was not lost. With the continued help of the volunteer team we have moved on to coppicing and thinning in Gelli Hir Woods. Our grasslands have not been neglected either, with gorse being cleared from the maritime heath at Longhole cliff by the farmer using a cut and collect flail.
Also, after a number of years without grazing, we have finally got 2 heifers grazing the hay meadow at Priors Meadow. This should benefit the meadow greatly in the long term. For a change of scene recently our volunteer team have occasionally headed up to work with the volunteers from Carmarthenshire and have helped deliver grassland management work at a council reserve. We also spent a day helping Peter Hill, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, clear sites for pond creation within Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) Millwood at Penrice, Gower - helping improve connectivity for Great Crested Newts amongst other species.
Much of our winter has been focused at Elizabeth & Rowe Harding Nature Reserve, known locally as Ilston Quarry. This reserve is designated SSSI for the geological features exposed by the quarrying; not something I am used to managing for as an employee of a Wildlife Trust but as land owners WTSWW are obliged to (at least attempt to) maintain their SSSIs in “favourable” condition (ie: visible). This has involved clearing scrub and trees from the cliff face and quarry floor and thanks to a generous grant from the Gower Society we have had specialist roped access contractors clearing the quarry face and have cleared the quarry floor ourselves.
At times it has been hard to reconcile the work with nature conservation but the scrub is treated as coppice and has been cut every decade or so in the past. We have also cleared vegetation encroaching on one of the two seasonal pools. The second will be cleared next year along with some more coppicing to create a more diverse age structure to the scrubby growth in the reserve. The grant will also allow us to renovate the interpretation panel, clear a path to give a short circular walk, and will pay for us to clear around the massive old lime kiln to allow for a better view and for the materials to fence below it for safety, work to be completed in spring. Visitors to the reserve need to be aware that for their own safety they should not approach the base of the quarry face due to the high risk of rock fall.
As we look forward to spring and hopefully a change in the weather, work patterns will change with the emphasis shifting to infrastructure work, litter picking on the coastal reserves and back into the charcoal production and planning for future projects. I would like to thank all who have helped us this winter: volunteers, colleagues and others. If you would like to get involved or would like any more information please get in touch. Hoping for a barbecue summer, Paul.