You may have seen a strange craft on the pond by Holy Trinity church in January and wondered what was happening. It’s an amphibious digger hired by the Parish Council to remove most of the bulrushes from the pond.
The bulrushes grew back much faster than expected after the pond clearance the winter before last.
Aquatic Solutions who are specialists in pond and river maintenance treated the bulrushes in the autumn to kill the plants and the rhizomes and came back to remove the dead material.
A licence had to be obtained to do the work and use a particular herbicide that minimised the risk to other wildlife.
You may have noticed that every other willow has been coppiced and the plan is to coppice alternate stools every other year
Most of the ponds on the heath are set on gravel and consequently dry out at some time of the year. This provides a protected environment for the Great Crested Newt (GCN) because fish, which consume the tadpoles, don’t survive in the dried ponds.
The Essex Amphibian and Reptile Group (EARG) identified GCN eggs in some of the ponds but said that the pond in the County Wildlife Site dries too early for the eggs to survive.
The recommendation from the EARG is for this pond to be restored.
We were successful in getting a grant from the Big Lottery Fund for the major works, and volunteers helped clear the site of brambles and undergrowth, build animal and reptile refuges and replant native water plants.
There are several areas on the Village Green where the grass cutting is less frequent and less severe with the intent of sustaining wildlife.
The working group of the Parish Council arranged to have the sites surveyed by wildlife experts to establish their condition and whether any action was required to protect or improve them.
The Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) concentrated on the grassland and the Essex Amphibian and Reptile Group (EARG) focused on the ponds.
EWT indicated that our grass cutting regime is enriching the soil and consequently eliminating, over time, the rare wild flowers and acid grasses which are historically associated with Essex in general and the heath in particular.
The EWT report identifies Restharrow, Mouse-ear Hawkweed and Lady’s Bedstraw as being still present on the heath but only sparingly.
Christine Knight, our local wildflower enthusiast and expert, has provided photographs of some of the wild flowers which appeared on the heath this summer.
Ideally, EWT would like to see livestock grazing re-introduced to the heath but recognize this as being impractical and we have agreed to modify the grass cutting regime on the site between Holy Trinity Church and Pond Lane.
This site is a County Designated Wildlife Site and we will be making a cut of 10cm over the whole site in the spring and, most importantly, collecting and disposing the cuttings.