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..
No digger driver could go into Black Hole after the late summer rain, so we had to winch out the trees.
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.
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.
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 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.
Scrape for bare ground-loving insects and less-competitive plants such as Birdsfoot
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 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:
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.
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.