Bash, roll, or cut it?

Bracken frond (c) Zsuzsanna Bird

Managing bracken in an upland wildflower meadow can be challenging. Rob, the reserve officer responsible, stresses the important reasons for monitoring at Caeau Tan-y-Bwlch nature reserve.

Every last Saturday in June North Wales Wildlife Trust and Plantlife volunteers team up to count the nationally scarce greater butterfly orchids at Caeau Tan-y-Bwlch nature reserve. This year yielded the second highest count ever of 4,598 meaning the general conservation management of this reserve is going well, right? Well if you just rely on that one indicator then yes, on the surface, everything seems fine. However, as usual in conservation, the picture is a little bit more complicated than that!

Every year the volunteers also monitor positive (e.g. yellow rattle, black knapweed) and negative (e.g. hogweed, bracken) indicator species to help us decide on when to do the hay-cut for example, or whether to tweak grazing levels in the autumn. This ongoing detailed monitoring told us that bracken cover had increased substantially in the 2000’s, probably due to a combination of less frequent hay-cutting, a reduced number of volunteer bracken-bashing work parties, and increased soil acidity. Since then, bracken management techniques have been stepped up and include bashing, rolling, and cutting it more regularly in the spring and summer.

Thankfully, the ongoing monitoring tells us that the bracken cover has plateaued in recent years and is starting to thin slowly. We rely on the invaluable information supplied by our volunteers and act accordingly when necessary, so a huge THANK YOU  goes out to all those people who have taken part over the years. North Wales Wildlife Trust, as custodians of these important wildlife habitats, need YOUR HELP to remain vigilant in the challenging years to come…

There are many different opportunities to contribute to our nature reserve monitoring efforts, from birds to butterflies and from leeches to lichens. Why not join us for the annual greater butterfly orchid count and vegetation monitoring at Caeau Tan-y-Bwlch next year on 29 June 2019? For further information on bracken management techniques, please contact Rob on 01248351541 / rob.booth@northwaleswildlifetrust.org.uk