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Prees Heath Report October & November 2019

 

The weather in November was generally wet and dreary, but this did not stop various pieces of work being carried out on the reserve. The most obviously visible of these is the improvements made to where the access track joins the A49 road. The work, paid for by Butterfly Conservation, was completed to a professional specification by local contractors McFour. The main purpose of this work was to make it safer for vehicle users. As regards the rest of the track no further works are planned as regards the potholes, and drivers are advised to drive VERY SLOWLY and abide by the 5mph speed limit. 

The work to restore the heathland for the benefit of heathland wildlife and for visitors to enjoy is a long term project that has already shown some remarkable successes. However there is always more work to be done, and this time of year is generally a good time to carry out improvements. So we have had three different contractors on site carrying out three different pieces of work. Firstly people may have noticed some turf stripped plots on the grassy area before you reach the old airfield hangars. This is an experimental project to determine the prospect of establishing heather on this area carried out in partnership with Harper Adams University. There are 21 plots in all, with 3 of each of the following interventions:

 

• Seeded with Common Heather with chicken wire applied
• Seeded with Common Heather with no chicken wire
• Seeded with Bell Heather with chicken wire applied
• Seeded with Bell Heather with no chicken wire
• Not seeded with chicken wire applied
• Not seeded with no chicken wire
• Not turf stripped, not seeded and no chicken wire (Control)
 

 

 

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The vegetation on the plots will be surveyed over the forthcoming years.  It is known that this area of the reserve was in arable cultivation and used to grow crops at least 30 years ago, but that it probably was not as intensively farmed as other areas of the reserve.

 

The taller heather on the Hangars field has been mown in patches and the resulting brash, which contains seed, taken to the grassy areas of the East of Runway field where it will be spread by the volunteers. Mowing or grazing keeps heather in good condition as it can regenerate from the base. The third piece of work has been brush harvesting heather seed on the East of Runway field. The resulting seed will be used on some of the turf stripped plotsand elsewhere where more heather needs to be established. We are also considering sowing seed of some fine leaved heathland grasses, fescues and bents, in the spring. 

 

 

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This year Butterfly Conservation held its National Annual General Meeting and Members Day in Shropshire for the first time. Around 200 people attended and I was invited to give a talk entitled The Restoration of PreesHeath Common and the Silver-studded Blue. I also sold some copies of a short novel I have written, loosely based on events at Prees Heath Common in the postwar period, called ‘Postcard from the Common’. All royalties from sales of the book will be donated to Butterfly Conservation, and it can be purchased from the bookshop in Whitchurch or by contacting me at the email address below. 

 

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In October we held a Fungi Foray on the reserve, led by local fungi expert John Hughes. A total of 35 species were recorded, some of them with evocative names such as Poison Pie, Fairies’ Bonnet and Amethyst Deceiver.Finally the next event on the reserve is a Public Litter Pick on Wednesday 11th December from 10.30am to 12.30pm. Everyone is welcome to come and help – gloves, litter pickers and bags will be provided. 

 

 

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A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone who cares for the reserve and the plants and creatures whose home it is.

 

Stephen Lewis

Butterfly Conservation Prees Heath Warden

07900 886809

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