Thursday, 18 December 2014

Wicken Fen Ambassadors

A note from our Assistant Ranger Stu:
   Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of leading Wicken Fen’s first ambassador work party. Armed with plenty of tools we headed off to the butterfly trail to help create the brand new glade. The previous week, with some help from friends at the RSPB and their reciprocating mower, we had cut all the Wood Small Reed (Calamagrostis epigeious) right the way to ground level and the volunteers’ task was simple, to pick up the mess we had created!
   As some important butterfly species, such as Common Blue (Polyommatus Icarus) and Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus), hibernate at the base of the Wood Small Reed or on the ground, so we had to be careful to minimise the disturbance as much as possible, and as such, using rakes was out of the question. With a pitch fork each we had to carefully pick up the cuttings without disturbing the ground and carry it off into the nearby scrub.

Careful "raking" to avoid dormant butterfly pupae
   Whist not the most glamorous job, the work party performed admirably and finished the work well ahead of schedule. It is really starting to take shape now, and with the addition of a wild flower seed mix to be planted in spring, the glade should look fantastic by the end of 2015.

Wheeling the cuttings away into the scrub
  In addition to this work, we also had a go at pollarding some of the trees around the trail. We do this to add a bit of diversity to the tree structure, and the fresh growth that will pop up next spring is brilliant for a huge variety of different insects.  Again, keeping up the hard work, the ambassador party managed to achieve a huge amount of work in the short amount of time given. It might look a little extreme at the moment, but when the trees start growing the effect will be quite beautiful.

   Everyone seemed to have great fun, and we will hopefully see them next month for another work party. Well done team, you did a brilliant job!
The happy team after a days work

    If you would like to join us as a Wicken Fen Ambassador then please email for more information.

To finish up:
   We also had some Christmas calves over the last couple of weeks. Bramble has had a red bull calf that will be called Enion, after the naturalist Eric Enion who grew up in Burwell and wrote the book “Adventurer’s Fen” about the changing ecology of Burwell Fen over the 40 years before it was drained as part of the war effort in World War 2.
Enion hiding behind mum on Monday, it took me ages to find him!
Wendy also calved this week. She is the proud mum of another bull calf called Stan. 

Mum and Stan reunited after ear tagging

Friday, 5 December 2014

New Corral on Tubney

In preparation for a work party last Friday, Stu, Lois and I moved some very large reels of old stock netting. We had to use the big tractor as the reels were so heavy and Stu managed to achieve the ultimate goal and get a reel onto each prong of the pallet forks. 
Stu with his "double pronging"!
So with the fencing out the way UK power networks were free to come in and help build a corral as part of their Helping Hands project. They've done a fantastic job and three quarters of the corral is fully built. The clay was so hard that even their massive auger was struggling to dig down to six foot deep, which is why we didn't quite get it finished on the day. They did do a great job though and we are very grateful for all their hard work.

Team photo at the end of the day, with the new corral in the background

A close up of the corral
Once finished the corral will help our tenant farmers get their cattle on and off the site. It will hopefully make things a lot easier as once penned up you can push the cows into a trailer. We're also putting a fancy gate system in the middle so that the herd can be split once in the corral.

I had a couple of training session at Anglesey Abbey last week so ended up filling an hour in the evening between courses by wondering around the gardens. It was very atmospheric with the mist coming in and the sun setting behind the trees. I also got a sneak preview of some of the Winter Lights things that the Gardeners were putting up and testing. It looks like it will be another fantastic event and I hear the first weekend has already gone down a storm.

Sunset over the Anglesey Abbey gardens