Friday, 20 January 2017

This winter we have really been making inroads into the gorse that is invading our species-rich grasslands.  But what does gorse-bashing, as its affectionally known, really involve?
Firstly, you have to decide which areas of gorse are causing issues and which are not.  Gorse, is a native plant, and is attractive to wildlife of all kinds, so is not bad per se, and we certainly do not want to get rid of it all.  But as gorse is pretty well protected by its prickles against all but the hardiest grazers, if it were left unchecked, we would have a monoculture of gorse and no meadow species.

We are starting on the smaller areas, and working from the outer edges of the "area of invasion".  This is because these are the areas that will have been under gorse cover for the least amount of time and so will have been less effected by the presence of gorse (nutrients increased by rotting foliage and a bountiful seed bank) and so we are likely to get a faster recovery to a species rich grassland.

Then you need to cut down the gorse, as low to the ground as possible, so as not to leave trip hazards.  The stumps are then treated with herbicide to prevent regrowth, this has to be done within minutes of the stems being cut.  After that, the cut brash needs is put into big dumpy bags which are dragged to a fire site and burned.  Burning is not done directly on the ground, but is on sheets of corrugated tin raised on concrete blocks.  This prevents the fires from scarring the ground (which can cause erosion of the bare, thin soil) and fertilisation of the ground by the ashes, which we take off site once they are cold.

So its all very hard work and time consuming.  Luckily we have received a generous private donation this year, and this has meant that we have been able to employ Lizy, our Ranger, for the full twelve months.  In turn, having Lizy here full time has meant that we have been able to take on an Assistant Ranger, Ed, for 4 months this winter, and he and our weekly gang of local volunteers have been helping with the effort.  Lizy's presence has also meant that we have been able to have a dozen or so of the NTS Lothain Conservation Volunteers out on site for two weekends over the winter, and that has had a tremendous impact. 

Here's a series of images to help put you in the picture.  Liza.
Photo taken May 2016 - gorse in flower so showing up well
Photos taken January 2017 - areas removed highlighted

NTS Lothian Conservation Volunteers working hard in the wind and rain in October 2016
Ed and Lizy hard at work bag dragging and fire loading

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