Although we are still a few months away from the frog breeding season, there is always something that can be done to increase the breeding success, One of the primary locations for frogs within the reserve is the pool that exists immediately south of the station platform. Water levels will naturally increase here during the winter months.
One factor in breeding success is access to sunlight and the warming effect of the sun’s rays then reaching the water. To that end, it is an annual process around the pool to cut back some of the willow. The pictures show a before and after at the northern end of the pool.
The cutting back produces waste wood, a lot of which is in straight lengths. This cut material is all incorporated into the dead hedge that surrounds most of the pool, This hedge provides the dual benefit of a natural habitat and a means of discouraging dogs from running into the pool, which is especially important during the breeding season.
The primary asset of Ashlawn Cutting is its grasslands. They are cut and cleared during the autumn/winter season every year. The cut material is always removed to avoid enriching the soil from the decaying vegetation. The grasslands are then best placed to provide the right environment for native wild flowers and grasses. This then forms the wanted environment to support a diversity of invertebrate life.
A group of dedicated volunteers are working on laying a boundary hedge where the cutting, runs alongside the Diamond Jubilee Wood.
The existing tree/scrub stock was not purpose planted for hedging, so the volunteers have to make the best of what is available. This often entails using thicker than desired tree trunks, which are “pleached” to leave a live connection to the rootstock.
The Autumn/Winter work parties resumed in early October. The primary focus has been on cutting the existing grasslands. There has also been some additional scrub clearance to both extend and enhance the existing grasslands.
The poor calcareous soil on the quarry spoil banks are ideal for supporting wildflowers that are not so readily spotted elsewhere in the local area. The plants in the picture gallery can only thrive where not trodden, so look beyond the path edges and in areas where the vegetation has not been disturbed.
This year’s count takes place between Friday 16th July and Sunday August 8th August. This is an excellent opportunity to involve the whole family in some valuable citizen science. Just choose a sunny day for the survey and make your observations within a 15 minute window,. There is a dedicated website provided by Butterfly Conservation where you can obtain guidance and subsequently record your results. As an alternative, recording can be made via the dedicated app. Just search for and download the Big Butterfly Count App
Volunteering resumed at the cutting on Sunday 18th April. The focus from then on has been to control and eliminate non-native species. This does cause some concern with visitors, as were are observed removing Bluebells. The bluebell in question is of the Spanish variety. It is both non-native and invasive. It is growing where we would much prefer to have native wild flower and grasses growing, which in turn provide a benefit for the native wildlife.