Our project last week was to clear a view point at Swanwick which overlooks Bens Lake. However it wasn’t a job just for aesthetics we had habitat improvement and creation in the forefront of our minds.
The bank in question is to the north of Bens Lake and is facing almost exactly due south making it the perfect sun trap. Bare earth is an important habitat, which is greatly overlooked as it looks as one might expect – bare(!) As it heats up incredibly quickly it is a very important place for cold blooded reptiles or invertebrates.
So our plan was to clear a few Silver birch trees and clumps of bramble that were creating a fair amount of shade. Additionally it opened up the view from the lookouts above. Within the week, with the help of the Beechcroft team, we managed to clear a considerable amount of vegetation from the bank and raked it back to bare earth.
As a little added extra I placed all the leaf mulch on top of a pile of cut Birch logs as some sort of bug bungalow/hibernaculum to the side of the slope, creating a safe refuge.
In days gone by these sorts of steep sided bare earth banks would have been all around the clay pits of Swanwick and as a result it would have sustained great populations of solitary mining bees. As vegetation succession has taken over, through grassing over, then bramble establishing and then later still trees taking root, we have lost these bare slopes that are fundamentally important for these species. Hopefully, in reinstating these sun filled spaces we can create a good environment for these little bees once again.