Friday, 24 October 2014

Godwin Plots

We have been embarking on the massive rake-a-thon that occurs this time every year. When the fen is too wet to drive the tractors on to cut and clear the sedge, its back to good old fashioned elbow grease  and large portion of the ranger team took their rakes and went across the fen to the Godwin plots last week. 

The Godwin Plots are a reminder of the scientific importance and history of the fen. Sir Harry Godwin set up the plots as part of an experiment in 1927. He was investigating the impact of cutting vegetation on plant communities. He split the experimental sites into 5 plots, each with a different cutting regime; the first was cut yearly, the next every two years, the next every three, and then four and the final one was never cut. His results showed that management alone could have a great impact on the flora, with the plots cut more regularly showing a decline in the sedge species Cladium maricus and an increase in Purple Moor Grass (Molina caerulea) and tall fen herbs such as marsh thistle (Cirisium vulgare) and yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris). The plant communities could be changed from mixed sedge characteristics to herd rich litter communities just by changing the frequency of cutting. These were ground breaking findings at the time, and helped support the new theory of ecological succession of which Godwin was a supporter. Godwin finished his experiments in 1940, the but plots were revived in 1955 for Cambridge University students to study, by which time scrub species like alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus) and brambles (Rubus fruticosus) were also appearing in the plots that were cut less often. To this day we continue to cut the plots at the same timings as first proposed by Godwin. We only had to cut the annual plot this year so, Ruby went up with a tractor earlier in the month, when the weather was a little drier, to do the cutting and then some of the other rangers went up to rake off the cuttings by hand last week.

Beautifully raked Godwins

It's not just the Godwin plots keeping us busy. We've also been raking up the cuttings along Wicken Lode, Drainer's Ditch and part of Sedge Fen Drove, as well as decorating the newly refurbished Docky Hut and supervising our contractors, JW Fencing, who are currently putting up some fantastic new fences for us. 

More raking!
Lois and I were happy to have a work party from BT back to help us spruce up the wild campsite. They’ve done a fantastic job fixing the toilet door, and have built some lovely new steps to make getting to the toilet slightly easier. So thank you guys and we look forward to having you again!

The BT chaps with their fantastic new steps and toilet door.

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