Butterflies enjoying the warm weather

Over the last few weeks, a lot of our conservation effort has gone into removing non-native and invasive species. Some passers-by think we are destroying bluebells, but the only ones in Ashlawn are the non-native Spanish variety. If left unchecked, they would spread rapidly, to the detriment of more valuable native flowers. It is the native wild flowers and grasses that are of paramount importance to invertebrate life.

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It’s that time of year again!

Frogs were observed to be on the move into the wetlands of Ashlawn Cutting on Friday 17th February 2023. On the 23rd, around 50 clumps of spawn were present in the marsh south of the station platform. Hopefully, there is more to come here and in other suitable pools over the coming days.

During a work party on Thursday 2nd March, the spawning activity commenced in the southern end of Pytchley Marsh. A few pictures are shown here but you will need to zoom in to see the full detail!

Latterly, spawning activity has also commenced in Reservoir Pond which is very welcome news. The pond was restored during the summer drought and now has much more open water.

Restoring Reservoir Pond

We had a very prolonged dry spell in summer which was generally not good news for a nature reserve. However, it did give the volunteers an opportunity to restore Reservoir Pond while the water level went from low to virtually non-existent.

The pond is an important breeding site for the common frog. The pond had become severely choked by flag iris and reedmace. The resulting encroachment meant very limited open water for the frogs to mate and spawn.

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Ashlawn Grasslands Maintenance 2022

Grass cutting and raking off of the arisings has been on the go for the last two months. We have maintained a very good pace this season, with usually three brush cutters in action, with an energetic crew completing all the clearance. We expect to be finished by the end of November. The unimproved grasslands of the cutting are its core asset and deserve the full attention of the volunteer group.

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Rugby in Bloom Awards

Ashlawn Cutting was award a Gold and Overall Winner award in the Environmental category of Rugby in Bloom.

The awards presentation took place at the Benn Hall on Tuesday 8th November. The local volunteers attending the presentation received an an unexpected additional award. Our group was given a special award for outstanding contribution to Rugby in Bloom. In addition to a certificate, we also received an engraved glass trophy,

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Get ready for the frogs!

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.

Before clearance
After clearance. Notice the additional material that has gone into the dead hedge.

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.

Ashlawn Grass Cutting 2021

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.

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