Regular work parties, twice a month, began in December with around 6 volunteers on each work party. We usually worked from 10am until 1 or 2 pm on a variety of activities to make improvements to access and for wildlife on the hill.
The first job we carried out was to clear vegetation from the far end of the Bridleway track where vegetation had gradually made it narrower and narrower. This was not only an improvement for visitors but also allowed the team and contractors better access for working on the site. The use of a Landrover or quad bike now allows us to get tools to where we are working without having to carry everything we need, in some cases quite a long way!
We then focussed our attention on the edges of the ant hill meadow where a large tree had fallen and branches from trees were low to the ground preventing grazing and allowing the edges to become thick with nettles and thistles. Whilst these can be good nectar sources we wanted to protect the grazing and the woodland edge plants so decided to clear a lot of the wood to allow sheep to get in and keep the area slightly more open.
Another piece of work we have started nearby is to remove rhododendron from the woodland along the eastern side of Pontesford Hill. We have been cutting back the bushes and burning the material we cut. We will also be pulling out the stumps to prevent regrowth. Rhododendron may be very pretty when it flowers but it is a non-native invasive species which does not support any of our native species and tends to take over areas of woodland and prevent native plants and trees from growing. Although the rhododendron is fairly scattered at the moment if we start opening up areas of the wood to allow more light in for regeneration of native plants and trees the rhododendron is likely to expand and spread rapidly. Removing the rhododendron will allow space for more of our native shrubs, even such simple things as bramble to provide cover and food for our birds and insects.
Over the summer the group is likely to carry out a different range of activities as bird nesting will prevent us from carrying out work on trees and shrubs. We have some work to do on gates and fences and the areas of scree that have been cleared of trees will need brambles and other vegetation clearing from them in order to get back to scree and Calaminarian grassland habitat that we are recreating. The group will also be heavily involved in the access work taking place over the rest of the year along with some tree safety work to protect visitors.
The generosity of some of our volunteers and neighbours means that the team now have a tractor quad bike and trailer available to use on site once we have sorted out public liability insurance which should help massively with our work. We are really grateful to people for this.
If anyone out there would like to get involved in helping out with practical work please get in touch for more details