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Helping Heathlands

Posted: Tuesday 19th April 2016 by Volunteering

Volunteers work ‘tirelessly’ on Barossa this winter to restore the heathland!

The total area cleared by the volunteers is four hectares and this was all done using hand tools and the occasional brushcutter and chainsaw operated by Grazing Officer Ben Habgood in just under two months (bearing in mind they only met every Wednesday when Ben wasn't on call!)

The Scots pine was cut, dragged and neatly stacked around the edges of the compartment. This enabled all material to be quickly chipped and the arising’s removed from the heath.


Total area cleared by volunteers is 4 hectares

Burning brash is an integral part of scrub removal on heathland sites and is loved by some volunteers, but in this particular instance chipping the material and removing the arising’s was the better option.

The benefits are many:

The volunteers get to spend time on a fantastically rare habitat, immediately improving the ecological and aesthetic value of that area.

There was something for everyone to do: from hefting large pieces of scrub, to meticulously cutting up scrub and piling it up for removal, or tending the fire (if they had one). All this was done while taking in the magnificent views and wildlife at the same time.

The wildlife has and will continue to benefit hugely from this winter works. With the closing canopy of the Scots pine scrub being removed, it will allow the mature heather and acidic grasses to once again flourish.

Specialist birds such as Dartford warbler, stone chat and nighjar will benefit with greater acces to bare ground 

Due to the relatively low ground disturbance that our volunteers cause, the mature heather wasn't crushed or damaged and so will continue to flourish and help to create a mosaic of habitats linking other works being carried out across the site.

Ground-nesting and other specialist birds such as the Dartford warbler, stone chat and nightjar that take up residence on Barossa will also benefit, with greater access to bare-ground, lower-lying scrub and selected natural song perches that the volunteers have created out of dead Scots pine.

Reptiles such as grass snakes, adders, common lizards and slow-worms should be able to take greater advantage of the reduced levels of shade that the scrub once cast and will be able to easily access areas of disturbed ground created by the volunteer’s feet to bathe on.

As a direct result of the volunteers clearing the pine, our Belted Galloway cattle will also be able to more easily access the tussocks of molinia that sometimes dominate the heather and other specialist acidic grasses, again helping to create a mosaic of habitats and keeping other scrub in the vicinity in-check.

This type of sensitive scrub removal wouldn't be possible without our volunteers

Specialist invertebrates such as the green heath tiger beetle will have increased access to bare sandy ground in close vicinity to tall patches of heather. The increased levels of sunlight will hopefully help this species thrive across the lowland heath.

This type of sensitive scrub removal just wouldn't be possible without volunteers. Together with volunteers and contractors 25.1 hectares of invasive scrub has been removed from the heath this 2015/16 winter, an incredible achievement.

It is by utilising all available staff, contractors, livestock and volunteers that site managers are able to clear, create and enhance Sites of Special Scientific Interest such as Barossa and continue to protect them for the future.

Ben Habgood

Grazing Officer

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