Ashlawn – December 2020

The Rugby Wildlife volunteer group has made exceptional progress in the latter part of this year, especially having lost over 20 weeks of activity due to coronavirus lockdown. December’s work has focused on two key areas – Maintenance of Pytchley Marsh and creation of new hedgerows.

The new hedge lines are being created south of Ashlawn Bridge, where the grasslands border the main path. There is limited existing tree/scrub material to work with, so the hedgerows will initially look a bit thin. They will bush out with new growth. In some places, we will follow up with additional planting to bolster the hedge line. Please see the picture gallery:

Pytchley Marsh has historically received very little maintenance from the local group. Work was typically deferred to an occasional visit by Nature Force group from Brandon. It is clear that we need self sufficiency to make progress, so we have set to work ourselves. There are three core problems to tackle:

  • The over abundance of willow
  • Over abundance of Fool’s Cress and Reedmace
  • The presence of non-native Azolla water fern

Some of our problems arise from the excess nutrient present in the marsh, coming from past sewage leaks, which provides an ideal environment for the unwanted plants to thrive, along with the more typically seen duckweed. Our work focuses on keeping the willow managed and removing excess weed and azolla growth.

The willow will be coppiced over several seasons, so that there is some variation in the tree height and density. This will also allow more sunlight to reach the pools within the marsh, which is especially important for the frog breeding season.

The first volume plant to be removed is the fool’s cress. This is easily uprooted by a heavy duty drag fork. The reedmace typically requires more force to remove, so very little has been removed before Christmas. We will start with spades very soon! The azolla will naturally congregate where the wind and flow takes it. It is skimmed off by bring up a net underneath the plant. It does not respond to skimming from the top. This can only be regarded as a control. It cannot be eliminated unless we have much lower nutrient level and better water flow through the marsh.

The picture gallery gives a flavour of what we have achieved so far, but there is plenty of reedmace that we still need to create a more open channel through. The goldfinch feeding from the seed head of burdock shows the benefit of being a bit untidy.

There always plenty of nature to observe in the cutting, even in winter. The pictures below will give you a flavour of what can be seen. Even in December, there are open flowers!