Habitat restoration at Burton Ponds - update

04 September 2020 | Posted in Jane Wilmott , Burton Pond
Habitat restoration at Burton Ponds - update
Thinned and scraped area at the top of the hill New Piece © Jane Wilmott

By Jane Wilmott, Reserves Manager

This is an update on the planned habitat restoration work

Due to the wet winter, the works at Burton Ponds to restore the Black Hole, Welch’s Common and New Piece overran until the end of February.. 

Black Hole

No digger driver could go into Black Hole after the late summer rain, so we had to winch out the trees. 

Burton pond Jane wilmot

View from the boardwalk across to Welch’s Common, not seen for many years

The difference is stunning, opening up the whole aspect. Bog Bean and Dragonflies love it. 

Bog bean©John LuckSussex Wildlife Trust

Bog Bean

The landscape looks forlorn to start with, but we've had very positive comments. In July we found very rare species, including a spider not seen in the UK this century, called Centromerus brevivulvatus.

Welch’s Common

Jane W

View of Welch’s Common tree clearance and scraping 

The work to thin out the trees and scrape the top leaf litter layer went well. This was colonised by the Field Crickets in early summer – they love the warm weather. 

Field cricket©Derek MiddletonSussex Wildlife Trust

Field Cricket by Derek Middleton

Unfortunately, heavy machinery after so much rain churned up the permissive path and the ground turned to putty, which made life difficult for walkers  We turned some of the damaged area into one of the scrapes to try and minimise the area of disturbance. It will recover and be beneficial to bare-ground loving plants and insects, such as the Digger Wasps and bees.

Jane Wilmot

Scrape for bare ground-loving insects and less-competitive plants such as Birdsfoot

New Piece

Work started at New Piece in the New Year, but the rain didn’t stop, which was a problem for extracting the timber, with the big tractor and trailer getting stuck. Eventually the first couple of loads were taken away for processing and firewood. Covid 19 meant a delay to the last load being removed, but it should go soon.

Mulcher and digger

Mulcher and digger at New Piece on a rare dry day

A great bit of kit was brought in to mulch stumps before scraping the leaf litter down to the sandy soils. This should provide the perfect growing medium for heathers and acid grassland to establish where the sunshine is streaming in.

Again, the main footpath track became very muddy, but we were able to scrape it off, so it’s better than before now. We are grateful for everyone's patience.


Scraped track and scalloped edges letting in more light

Future Restoration Work

All this restoration is made possible by a Countryside Stewardship Grant, the Sussex Ornithological Society and Heathlands Reunited National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, and needs to be completed during winter 2020/21. The remaining work is expected to start in the second week of September:

The Warren

There will be tree thinning, pine and sycamore removal and glade creation followed by scraping in some areas. The mature veteran trees and a variety of scrub and tree ages will remain. As there are no paths through the Warren, we don’t anticipate disruption, apart from when work takes place near the bridleway. 

Horse riders along the bridleway at the back will need to be aware that there may be noise and machinery nearby. 

The work we have done there so far has created interesting areas. Heathers are starting to colonise plus we discovered a rare heathland species, the Hieroglyph Ladybird.

Black Hole

The final area of scrub adjacent to the boardwalk will be dug out. The path may need to be temporarily closed during these works.

Fencing New Piece and the Warren 

The plan is to graze the newly restored areas as soon as is appropriate, much like Welch’s Common now, with a few cattle or ponies for a few weeks or months a year. The perimeters will be fenced off where there are not currently stock proof fences. There will be easy access gates on all the existing used paths, as well as field gates for management. 

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