The volunteers and various groups have been active on the reserve in the last two months. Volunteers cleared brambles from part of the SSSI – if this work is not done the brambles will become invasive and suppress the grasses and wildflowers. So, although they do provide fruits in the late summer, home to many insects and shelter and nesting sites for birds, they have to be controlled. It is a case of striking a balance, like much of the work carried out on the reserve, to ensure that a mosaic of habitats to benefit a range of species is maintained. The volunteers also did a litter pick of the reserve in February in the most appalling weather – driving rain and cold – so many thanks to them. It is always good to meet and greet new volunteers, and anyone who would like to help out on the reserve in any way should just get in touch with me.
Volunteers soaked after the litter pick
Reaseheath College students on the reserve
A neighbouring landowner on the eastern boundary near the path to the pond on the reserve recently erected a tall fence, and the land beyond the fence is now being cultivated. We decided to plant a shelter belt of trees alongside the fence to lessen its visual impact and also to provide suitable habitat for wildlife. Most of the trees were donated by the Woodland Trust, and the remainder were paid for by the Meres & Mosses Landscape Partnership Scheme. The species were much the same as those that were planted along the A41 some years ago – Pedunculate Oak, Grey Willow, Goat Willow, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Rowan, Holly and Alder Buckthorn. These are species that are already established on the reserve.
Most of the planting was carried out by Year 3 and Year 4 pupils from Prees Primary School, with the remainder planted the following day by students from Reaseheath College near Nantwich. They all worked hard not just to dig the holes for the trees but also to install the canes and guards to protect the trees from the rabbits, which like to nibble the bark and thereby damage or even kill the tree.
Prees Primary School pupils planting trees
Butterfly Conservation purchased the reserve on 30th May 2006, so this year marks its tenth anniversary. To celebrate this we are holding a family-friendly BioBlitz on Sunday 29th May, starting at 2.00pm and finishing in the evening. A BioBlitz is an opportunity to find as many different wildlife species as possible in a given time – birds, butterflies, other insects, pondlife, reptiles, wildflowers, mammals etc. Various experts will be on hand to assist people in identifying the wealth of wildlife that is to be found on the reserve. The event is designed to be very suitable for children (the wildlife custodians of tomorrow!) and their parents, so please contact me if you would like to book places. There will be a BBQ in the evening, and a marquee and portaloos will be available.
Finally, I am going to finish this report on a sadder note. In March I learnt that Eleanor Cooke had died. In 1991 Shropshire Wildlife Trust published a book written by Eleanor entitled ‘Who Killed Prees Heath?’. In the book she poetically describes how the heritage of Prees Heath Common was all but being destroyed, and the book received national publicity on BBC Radio 4. With the Common threatened with sand and gravel extraction at that time, it became an important feature of the Save Prees Heath Common Campaign, which led to the purchase of the western half of the Common by Butterfly Conservation in 2006 and subsequent restoration work. Everyone connected with the campaign to save the Common is grateful to Eleanor for her unique contribution in giving expression to what so many people passionately felt, and continue to feel as only half the Common has been saved and restored. I still have some copies of the book available, priced at £5.00 each, and please contact me if you would like to purchase one.
Eleanor Cooke's book
Prees Heath Warden