Monday, 4 July 2011

reclaiming woodland

My favourite part of our developing site is the area in its north western corner. It is approached through the meadow and then opens up into a gloriously shaded native woodland. It already has established native silver birch (betula pendula), English oak (quercus rubor) and rowan (sorbus aucuperia).
Incongruous Lombardy poplars were removed in the spring and their trunks and branches (brash) have been stacked to provide homes for invertebrates and for other lovers of cool shade. Their removal opened this corner up and let light through.

There are self sown sycamores (acer pseudoplatinoides) that will be removed in the autumn and some of the native trees may also be thinned to remove competition and to allow more light in.

The understorey is, however, currently dominated by nettles and brambles. Both are, of course,  wonderful plants for wildlife but they have engulfed the area. We believe that the spent compost from the mushroom farm was disposed of around the site perimeter, with the result that species like nettles that like enriched soil have crowded out other flora.

We have two main ways of dealing with the thick unwanted jungle and the first is shown here. Roger and I went through with his petrol cutter and removed the brambles and nettles. These have been stacked. I have followed behind a little later with the scythe, taking the new growth away at ground level. Once again the cuttings have been stacked. We hope that we will lower the nutrient levels in the soil by taking away the 'tops' of the plants over several seasons and this will allow other, less vigorous plants to grow. The stacks of rotting vegetation may one day become homes to grass snakes although none have been recorded on site and none are likely to make their way to us.

The eventual vision for this area is for the understorey year to begin with naturalised spring flowering bulbs and native primrose (primula vulgaris) ; moving onto native bluebells (hyacynthoides non-scripta) and then through red campion (silene dioica) to foxgloves (digitalis purpurea).

In time, climbers will garland some of the trees and shrubs like native holly that occur naturally on sandland sites will be added.

Our challenge is to provide the plants to enrich this area. My seed collecting is already rewarding us - our first tray of red campion seedlings were pricked out on Sunday.

I must admit to one of those 'scratching my head' moments. Creating the volume of plants needed from collected seeds and cuttings to fill a six acre garden is going to be a major challenge.

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