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.
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.
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,
A lot of the work undertaken in recent weeks has focused on improving the woodland edges. This has been a mix of coppicing, laying new live hedge rows, putting cut material into dead hedges and complete tree removal (especially sycamore).
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.
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.