​Natural Regeneration at Rye Harbour

30 September 2020 | Posted in Barry Yates , Rye Harbour , Birds , Plants
​Natural Regeneration at Rye Harbour
Bramble flower - it's in the rose family

Natural Regeneration is what has been going on with the strip of land along Rye Harbour Farm between the Nook Drain and the shingle track - another term for it is “Arable Reversion”. 

It’s gone from open sea (until 1800s), to saltmarsh (until 1940s), to sheep grazing (until 1977), to arable (until 2002), to grassland (until 2010) and now scrub. This strip of “untidy” land compliments the large areas of the nature reserve that are grazed with sheep to prevent the natural succession that would turn grassland to woodland.

Arable farming on the land ended in 2002 when the Environment Agency bought the land to create the new flood bank (using clay dug from the farm) to protect local homes and businesses from flooding by the sea. The habitat here has been allowed to develop with just a little management – we create the disturbance that might otherwise have been done by large herbivores – cutting rides through the bramble bushes to improve diversity and provide alternative footpaths for you to explore. These long managed strips are cut each autumn and have become long, thin hay meadows with grassland species like Yellow Rattle (below), Common Spotted and Bee Orchids, Tufted Vetch and Meadow Vetchling.

Yellow Rattle 7617

The vegetation went through a rough grass phase that enabled Grasshopper Warblers to nest for a few years around 2010, but it soon became too overgrown for them. This habitat is now used by nesting Whitethroat, Sedge and Cettis Warblers and Linnet. It is dominated by Bramble bushes which was the subject of a recent blog.

Small trees have colonised, including Grey and Goat Willow, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Sea Buckthorn (below), Dogwood, a few Apple and Pear trees, probably from discarded picnics. Dogwood was not recorded on the nature reserve until a few years ago and we suspect it has arrived here through the stomachs of birds or badgers... like most of the larger plants. There is a patchwork of habitats within this strip which has been created by the variation in soil type and wetness, for example, Bramble doesn't grow in the very wet or the very dry soils.

It is amazing to see the changes that have taken place…

HF 2001 00043

Above is 2001 and below is today

HF 2020 9303921


HF 2003 00057

above is in 2003 and  below is 2011 and below that is today

HF 2011 1070816

HF 2020 9303916


HF 2012 2427

Above is 2012 and below is today

HF 2020 9303914


We will encourage this natural regeneration, keep cutting the rides each year, cutting the trees if they get too close to the power lines and watch the change in the wildlife as woodland develops… how long until Nightingales nest there?

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