Cothill Fen, 27th September 2014

This Saturday's session was back at Cothill Fen, a favourite site of many a Green Gymmer.  We assembled in the car park and were met by Judy Webb from Natural England, who was supervising our activities on this occasion.  We were pleased to welcome a new member, Jason, joining us for the first time.

Having unpacked and readied our tools, the fairly lengthy trek down the footpath to the work site was begun.  Once there, we had to navigate our way across the tussocks through the soggy fen, to establish our encampment.  When we were all present and correct, Judy outlined the morning's tasks and we divided up and set about working.  Prior to our visit, a previous work-party had cut the reeds over a portion of the site and the primary job now was to rake these up and stack them in a single pile, ready to be collected and removed at a later time.  Many of the cut reeds were around the pond area and beyond the electric fence, therefore, the power to this was temporarily disconnected while we worked in the vicinity.

The purpose of cutting the reeds is to allow the lower plants/flora, including the many rare wildflowers native to the area to flourish.  The fen requires a lot of management to prevent reeds and subsequently shrub and tree growth from encroaching upon the habitat.  The reeds therefore require removing once cut, to prevent them from releasing high levels of nutrients when they rot down and thus increasing this undesirable process.  While many of us were raking reeds, a number of other Green Gymmers were engaged in cutting back the tree growth around the site perimeter - mainly alders.

Ponies have recently been introduced to the site and to the neighbouring Parsonage moor to graze on the vegetation as a natural way of preserving the habitat.  They are however only likely to eat fresh shoots and not the more mature reeds.  Therefore, in order for them to have the greatest effect, the reeds have to be cut to ground level in the first instance.  While grazing, they will also trample the ground and disperse the wildflower seeds as they move around the site, which is highly beneficial to the conservation process.

After an hour and a half's vigorous activity, we took our break, with Sally providing some fantastic cakes for our consumption.  They were very well received, suffice to say!  Just the energy boost that was required to continue working until our 12:30pm deadline.

The reed raking was largely completed following our elevenses, and a number of us turned our attention to help out with the alder-removal operations.  During this time, Judy kept herself busy cataloging the various flora and fauna around the fen and I was pleased to be able to add a grass snake to her list, having spotted one in a reed pile established on a previous visit.

Having simultaneously collected a number of seeds from the devil's bit scabious plant, Judy assigned Kate the task of distributing these across the site in order to widen the distribution of this native wildflower - important in promoting the reserve's biodiversity.

The power to the electric fence was restored at the end of the session, essential to prevent the ponies from wandering into the vicinity of the pond!  We then packed up our tools and set off back along the path to the car park.  Upon arrival, we were slightly alarmed to discover that our vehicles had been boxed-in by a pair of coaches!  Fortunately, the drivers were present and they were only too happy to move and let us out.  Phew!  A good ending to a successful session.

Reeds cut on a previous occasion, ready for us to rake up

Making our way across the fen


the electric fence!

Work in progress...

Reed raking completed. For now!



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