A Damp but Interesting Morning

It was not really a day to be out on site, so I was not at Farlington today, unfortunately this did not mean I was not out. I spent the morning looking at a couple of sites north of Winchester where colleagues have been working on riverine habitat restoration projects with partner land owners. The first was a section of winterbourne where the channel has been modified to restore a variety fo features such as depth variation, eddies, riffles and a wide variety of flow rates. This provides a wide range of habitats for lots of wildlife, the “new” stream replaced a cleaned out and uniform channel that was actually more prone to causing flooding than the more natural channel now in place. It was a really interesting scheme that had produced very impressive results in a short time. It was also designed to be self-sustaining, that is there should be no need to intervene again, it should maintain itself. This is a vital goal and one that has been exercising me recently in planning management for a number of sites.

I am trying to work out how to maintain grasslands that we are restoring from scrub and woodland invasion. We can remove the trees and bushes but how to stop them coming back? We graze cattle but when the site is small and wet we cannot use very many and then they often do not want to eat the young tree growth. The result is we can end up where we started or at least having to go in every year to cut the young trees, very  labour intensive and not very sustainable. I suspect there is a very fine balance to be struck if the goal of a sustainable restoration is to be achieved.

One factor that is certainly very important is what type of animal is grazing, not just a choice between sheep or cattle, but which breed of what age. Thew second site we visited was a fenland meadow being grazed by British White cattle, an old breed and one of the multi-purpose ones that would have once been so common. multipurpose breeds were those that could be used for milking and beef, now most farms will either keep specialist beef or dairy breeds and the old breeds have largely gone. Another advantage of these animals is that they will eat a wider range of vegetation than fussier specialist breeds, making them very useful for the diverse swards we find on nature reserves. These are the very type of cattle that are most likely to be of use in grazing our restoration sites. Although these cattle had done a great job, but I actually think the Red Devon cattle we used this year might actually have been better for our purposes, so it was pleasing that perhaps we are already getting something about right!

I am at Farlington tomorrow, hopefully the seawall will all be restored to us and today’s tide and wind will not have washed away the Envioronment Agency’s recent works.



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