Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve Restoration Project Update

28th August 2008, Thursday

Heathland restoration:
The Highland cattle have done a superb job in Warren Glen over summer reducing the dominance of bracken and producing pockets of acid grassland which over the years will grow bigger and eventually create a large bank of acid grassland with patches of heather.

The bracken and gorse seedlings have been cut in the braken scraped area to further stress the bracken and control the gorse seedlings that have been a big problem this summer. This cutting will have to continue for the next few years until the problem has diminshed enough for it to be controlled by grazing.

The colonisation of the bracken scraped area by ground nesting bees, wasps and beetles has been exceptional with large aggregations of ornate-tailed digger wasps (Cerceris rybyensis) and green tiger beetles. The reptile numbers also continue to grow with four species of reptile now using the area with especially good numbers of slow-worm and grass snake.

You can follow the results of the monitoring by viewing the reptile monitoring spreadsheet regularly.

Ecclesbourne Meadow:
Fencing of Ecclesbourne Meadow will start soon so we can introduce grazing which is essential to restore this meadow which is being badly affected by bramble encroachment. A mixed grazing regime of cattle, sheep and ponies will produce a botanically rich flora with good structure free of scrub.

Fishponds Meadow:
This meadow, currently the best quality of the meadow areas within Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve, is being cut soon with the hay used to seed a botanically poorer area of semi-natural grassland near Saxons Pond.

Arable Management:
The re-seeded arable margins are developing very well in places with good develop of red clover and vetches needed as a nectar and pollen source for bumblebees and solitary bees such as long-horned bees. The wild bird cover strips have also developed well and are especially colourful this year as dwarf sunflowers were included in the mix, but more importantly the quinoa, kale and other seed-bearing crops in the strips are developing well and should produce a bumper crop of seeds for finches and buntings over autumn and winter.

The bare ground under the crops in the strips and in the main body of the mixed crops of barley, wheat and oats have been colonised by carpets of knot-grass, redshank and other arable weeds which in themselves are very improtant producing big oily seeds essential for skylarks and dunnocks over winter. (Note: Dunnocks are not traditionally thought of as farm birds but the bird ringing studies of the farm fields over winter have been showing how important the wild bird strips are for the dunnock population at the site.)