August has been a busy time for our hard working volunteers!
In Mid August at Vicarage Meadows, Steph cut half of the wildflower meadow with the help of Leigh with our tractor mower. The other half of the meadow was left so that the flowers could continue growing and provide shelter and food for the many insects. They will also be able to set seed to maintain the seed bank.
The next day our hard working volunteers came to rake the cut grass into rows and piles. It was then transferred onto a large tarpaulin to be dragged downhill to the edge of the meadow to our giant compost heap. All agreed that this was a great workout! Lizards are abundant here and probably make use of this pile to hibernate in over winter.
To see what was living in the long grass in the uncut side, Wildlife Trust Officer Stephanie used a sweep net to capture a sample of the abundant insects. From a small area of meadow there were weevils and other beetles, shield bugs, caterpillars, spiders and more!
The number of Bracken Bashing work parties has been a bit off-putting to some volunteers but no two days are the same!
We have had plenty of sunny days at Allt Rhongyr but the last summer work party above Craig Y Nos Castle was rather damp. All of us arrived expecting the weather to clear as per the forecast but it didn’t. It was a typical August day in misty drizzle and very atmospheric. After the bracken was rolled on the meadows or cut on the ridge we turned to pulling up ragwort. While this doesn’t grow densely we do have ponies grazing on the reserve so we remove it as much as we can.
We concentrate on the meadows where the ponies graze more and leave some for the many insects that feed on it in the rocky bits the ponies can’t get to.
Ragwort is toxic to horses and ponies but they will not eat it while it is growing. However when it is dead it becomes sweeter and they will eat it so it is important to remove all the pulled plants. We have a ragwort dump where the ponies can’t get to it but this was some way from where we were working. The quad became our ragwort chariot. It is amazing how heavy bundles of ragwort are when wet!
Bracken is controlled on our reserves by cutting, pulling or rolling with a bracken bruiser. This allows the light to get to the ground again especially when the fronds are raked into piles. This means that less nutrients are taken down in to rhizomes this year so that the plant doesn’t have the resources to grow back as strongly next year. Cutting the grass and raking off the material reduces the nutrients in the soil. Native wild flowers generally prefer nutrient poor soils.
Between the bracken control work parties on many of our reserves we have a couple of places that need different treatment. Sometimes it is good to vary the timing of the cut and this year Pen y Waun was cut early and Trewalkin had a spring graze because if grass and meadowsweet grows too strongly it will smother the flowers or prevent their seeds from germinating. Both activities help keep the open nature of the habitat so that the native wild flowers thrive and provide feeding grounds for other wildlife.