Doffcocker: Reaping the Future

Doffcocker LNR 12th and 26th December – Reedbed Management

Spreading out.

Redbeds have been one of the UK’s fastest declining habitats. Historically reeds were used for thatching, which because it was a widespread practice helped to maintain the health and extent of reedbeds, but as slate and other materials replaced reeds the maintenance of the beds lapsed and they began to decline. Some beds are still managed for thatch but it is only on a small scale.

In recent years reedbeds have had a renaissance for both commercial and conservation purposes. Reedbeds are excellent water filters and can be used in sewage treatment, but they only have a lifespan of 5-15 years depending on the effluent load that flows through them. For us the value in reedbeds lies in their importance to conservation.

Reedbeds support around 700 species of invertebrate plus many species of bird, amphibian, mammal and fish; bittern, water rail, reed bunting, reed warbler, water shrew, otter, to name a few. Not all of these are found in Bolton but Doffcocker does have a fine collection of warblers and has been visited by bittern.

As a reedbed ages dead material and silt build up, this gradually turns flowing water into marsh and then dry land. As the reedbed becomes dryer other species move in such as willow and birch; the same process also affects mossland, a habitat that has also been in decline. Reed cutting and the removal of trees helps to maintain the health of a reedbed.

Reed Warbler
Reed Warbler
Reed Bunting
Reed Bunting

Our two final tasks of 2021 involved removing trees and cutting an area of reed. Reedbeds are usually cut in winter, it can be done in summer but as this kills the new shoots it is usually used to control the spread of a reedbed. Only small areas of the bed are cut at any one time, not all of it at once, this maintains existing habitat while the cut areas recover. At Doffcocker the cutting regime is on a 7 year cycle, so next year we’ll cut a different section and so on year after year.

Being BCV we don’t like to waste anything, so all of the brash and logs from the trees were use to create a dead hedge along the fence between the reedbed and the causeway, this will help to create temporary habitat for wild life as well as removing unwanted material from amongst the reeds.

The reeds themselves were cut with a brushcutter, the cuttings were then raked up. We experimented with different tools and found that 2 and 4 pronged pitchforks were the most effective tools to use and allowed us to remove not just the freshly cut material but also older stuff that was clogging up the beds. Doing this we could create more areas of free flowing water than we could with spring rakes. Ideally the cut material should be burned but as we’re not allowed to burn on Doffcocker Lodge we piled up everything along fences, this isn’t the best solution as this material could make it’s way back into the cleared area. Removal from the site would be a preferred option, but that’s something we’ll have to look at next time.

So, there you go, 2021 reaped and harvested, thanks to everyone for turning out before Xmas wearing Santa hats and also on Boxing Day while still full of Christmas cheer. Happy New Year and see you in 2022.

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