Autumn on Gower used to be a time when the volunteers looked forward to woodland management but with a shift towards enhancing and managing our grassland habitats over the last few years, autumn has got far pricklier! Here's Paul Thornton, Reserves Manager for Swansea, Neath-Port Talbot & Carmarthenshire with an update.
Each year we have worked clearing roughly 1ha of gorse and scrub, some mechanically with the tractor and mower, some by hand. Gorse has been slowly swamping important limestone grassland, saum and heath habitats on our South Gower Coast reserves. Once it is over about 30cm high it’s habitat value decreases and it can out compete more fragile plant species. It also becomes a fire risk and it drops its needles creating a thick litter layer.
This year we were bold in our actions choosing to clear an area where the incredibly rare Goldilocks aster has previously been recorded. Annual monitoring has been carried out but Goldilocks aster has not been seen to be present for many years and we believe it has been unable germinate due to low light or if it has grown it has been unable to find it’s way up through the gorse.
Aster flowers late summer and autumn so we left the cutting until November to give any plants that may have grown but were undiscovered the chance to set seed. With the hard work of our volunteer team we cut the area and removed all the arisings and raked off the gorse needle litter layer that had established over the course of many years.
We will monitor this area in coming years and hope to see the Goldilocks aster colony re-establish itself, it is a remarkably resilient little plant that will germinate after long period of absence, survives fire and thrives with appropriate grazing.
While we were at Overton Mere we took the opportunity to haul a large amount of rubbish away that had been collected by locals and walkers on ad-hoc beach cleans, it was predominantly plastics and debris from the fishing industry. Most had been taken to the box we built for storing this collected material, some had been left at the top of the beach. It is important for the safety of grazing animals and wild birds and mammals that if you carry out an ad-hoc beach clean anywhere the rubbish is bagged and disposed of correctly.