Ranger’s Notebook: Management Works Winter 2010

The Fleet Pond Ranger, Tim Ackroyd, writes:

Wetland restoration

Over the past few years, Hart District Council’s Countryside Service and Fleet Pond Society have been working on improving the wetland habitats around Fleet Pond.  This work has involved clearance of trees and scrub to allow wetland plant species to flourish.

As a result of this work, the marsh and reed bed habitats have been restored in several areas, with rare species of plants and animals being recorded once again, some for the first time in 80 years!

Natural England has also upgraded the conservation status of the habitats from unfavourable to recovering.  It is vital that this work continues to be able to achieve favourable conservation status.

This winter one hectare of young secondary woodland on the edge of Coldstream Marsh will be felled in order to continue with our restoration work.  Leaf litter and a layer of topsoil and plant roots will then be scraped off to expose the old seed bank of wetland plants. The resultant material will be banked up on the edge of the marshland. The trees that have encroached on the marsh over the years, shade out the wetland plants and reducing the biodiversity.

The area of young woodland is very low in biodiversity and has very poor wildlife value as it does not provide adequate habitat for birds, bats and other species that need trees.  This work will allow the wetland plants to colonise once again and will ensure that a greater number of species can use this habitat.

Lesser Water Plantain

Gelvert Stream Diversion

Within this felling block a narrow channel will be excavated to create a diversion to the Gelvert Stream. This work is part of the larger pond restoration work to reduce the silt deposition within the pond. This diversion channel will take silt laden water away from Sandy Bay and releasing the water more gradually at several points leading up to Boat House corner.

Detailed hydrological and topographical surveys will be carried out before the diversion work is carried out. This diversion will have a manual sluice system and will only be used in times of very high rainfall or flood events. The existing route of the Gelvert Channel will be uninterrupted the majority of time.

Dry Heath Scrapes

Management will be undertaken at the dry heath to help restore the valuable heathland habitat we have at the nature reserve. We will be carrying out turf scrapes with machinery. Previous woodland which has been removed to restore the heathland vegetation, have for several decades produced a thick layer of organic matter. This prevents the heathland plants from regenerating. It is therefore essential to remove this layer of organic matter to expose the old seed-bank of plants such as heather. Heather seeds can survive for more than 50 years in the soil and can quickly germinate and re-establish themselves once exposed to favourable conditions. Scrapes were carried out here in September 2008, but the invasion of mainly birch saplings means we will need to re-scrape this area to remove these saplings. Only a very shallow layer of soil will be removed and added to the existing spoil pile.

Scrub Clearance and Reed Bed Management

This winter the Countryside Rangers with the help of the Fleet Pond Society will be carrying out  some small scale scrub clearance and reed bed cutting, within the Marshland areas and in particular Fuglemere Marsh, Gelvert Marsh and Wellington Reed Bed.

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