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Day 27: Toning up a New Reserve

Posted: Tuesday 27th June 2017 by 30DaysWild2017

New nature reserve showing ecotone between grassland and forestNew nature reserve showing ecotone between grassland and forest

Yet another new nature reserve

Yesterday I made a quick visit to the far north of Worcestershire to get a first look at the Trust’s newest nature reserve. In the Day 10 blog I wrote about the very new Nash’s Meadows reserve in the far South West of the county. This newest reserve is in the far North West and came into the Trust’s possession only a week ago. It has been a busy month!

The reserve was put up for sale at auction and the Trust’s representatives managed to secure it last Tuesday evening. Its purchase was backed by funds from a private charitable trust. When all has been settled it will bear a name reflecting that generous donation, but readers will have to wait for an official announcement about that. The Trust is, of course, very fortunate to be able to work with a partner charity in this way to secure another valuable site where wildlife will be secure and can flourish.

Like Nash’s Meadows this latest reserve is primarily a grassland site. However, its ecology and state of management are very different. Nash’s Meadows is a site to be slowly improved by the technique of hay strewing from nearby donor sites, with a long term objective of achieving a really species-rich and extensive area of meadow. This new reserve is on a site that was at one time primarily a very species rich meadow but which has deteriorated through neglect. There will need to be some fairly swift work to start a restoration process. The aim will be to soon introduce some grazing and then proper hay meadow management but only in some of the site, because this new reserve offers so much more.

Small brook running through Dry MillsThe recent history of the site is rather mixed from the ecological perspective. It is at the very edge of the Wyre Forest National Nature Reserve and was long ago designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England. Being designated an SSSI should give a site protection since owners of SSSIs are required to maintain their ecological value. However, like old listed buildings, if an owner wishes to neglect the site there are few powers to compel compliance and this site has certainly been neglected. If it was a listed building it would be one with holes in the roof, broken drain pipes, dry rot in the flooring, plaster mouldings fallen to the floor.

The Trust’s own assessment of the site prior to purchase stated that, “areas of habitat and species interest are still present although extent and quality have diminished”. Clearly it is going to be a challenge to get this site back into shape and some careful decisions will have to be made after a more detailed assessment of the site. However, as in the case of our other reserves it does fit very well within the “bigger, better more joined up” criteria. It is close to two very important Trust reserves, most notably Knowles Coppice with which it is joined through the corridor of the Dowles Brook, which runs through the middle of the Wyre Forest.

Natural England when assessing the state of the site in 2010 described it as, “Assessed as ecotone. Varied habitats species-rich grassland and scrub with old orchard trees. Good invertebrate interest. Pool area adds to species diversity”. So it is clear that this is more than a meadow and the use of the term ecotone is particularly interesting. It is used to describe a region of transition between main habitat types, for example where woodland shades into grassland, and which shows a mix of habitat characteristics. Ecotones are often rich in species diversity although they will lack the species which require the core conditions found in the main habitats on either side of the transition zone.

Clearly sorting out just how to manage this newest of Worcestershire WildlifeBook cover Nature of Wyre Trust reserves is going to be an interesting challenge. Thanks to this acquisition this site will certainly remain a very valuable part of the rich mix of habitats found in and around the Wyre Forest. For readers not familiar with the forest there is an excellent book, The Nature of Wyre. From your armchair it will take you deep into the forest and its wildlife, but better to get there and visit the forest discovery centre.



Graham Martin, Chair of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, opinions are my own not those of the Trust., @GrahamMartin99

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