Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

13th May 2013

Natural succession is a creeping disease, whereby disturbed ground such as gravel pits becomes invaded by tree saplings, which in turn grow into mature trees shading out reed beds, and the accumulation of their leaf litter dries out the reed beds altogether. Eventually, if left unchecked, you are left with woodland. The signs of natural succession are evident at Amwell. Already much of the northern bank and the two large islands are dominated by mature overhanging trees, resulting in less and less marginal vegetation. However, what is important is to preserve the remaining margins, scrapes and reed beds.

Two years ago, a programme of management work was embarked on to improve the views from the viewpoint and to reverse the effect of natural succession in the main reed bed. Work on the viewpoint involved removing a number of trees from the reed bed next to the scrape and lowering the scrape to improve the probability of the scrape being flooded during the winter months. This is important as it ensures that the vegetation that grows on it during the summer and autumn is killed off to provide an expanse of mud the following year.

In the main reed bed a number of willow and alder saplings were beginning to appear and these have now been removed. Also some of the mature willows along the side of the reed bed have been removed to give the reed bed more light and to improve the view up the valley.

During the winter months the water level has been intentionally kept high for the benefit of wildfowl and to kill off the vegetation. However, with the approach of spring the water levels have been reduced slightly to encourage waders. This has been extremely successful with both Redshanks and Little Ringed Plovers feeding on the newly exposed mud just 20 yards in front of the leaning rail.

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