Update on our work at Newchurch Moors

Update on our work at Newchurch Moors

Work continues at Newchurch Moors Nature Reserve to improve conservation grazing areas, ensure access on footpaths is safe and to open out views across the site.

New fences improving grazing and  water management 

Since acquiring Newchurch Moors we have been carrying out works to restore the wetland habitats on the nature reserve. One of the key aspects to our management is grazing by cattle, with animals on site from spring until the autumn. Boundary fences are key in managing livestock, and we have recently been replacing the one fence posts, also reducing the need for internal fencing, grazing as a single open area. The old fence line was difficult to maintain effectively a due to the very wet ground conditions in this area which meant the fence posts rot out quickly and require constant maintenance.  The new metal fence also allows ditch edges to be grazed which will help restore habitats and control non-native Himalayan balsam by the cattle. More effective ditch management, allowed by the fences, will aid with water management and help with restoration for target species including water voles, kingfishers and a range of wetland flora and fauna. All of the old fences will be removed when ground conditions allow this spring/summer; currently the ground is too wet to access in some sections.

Once the spring arrives and the vegetation grows up the new fence weather in. We have chosen this type of fencing for a number of reasons including maintenance, stock management, resilience and cost. This fencing will last 30+ years  opposed to wooden fence posts which we were on average replacing every 7-8 years. Much of the wood used in the fence posts is chemically pressure treated and we are trying to move away from this material. 

Species such as foxes and badgers will find a way under, over or round the fencing. This is not fencing for beavers! Whilst we do have aspirations for restoring beavers to the catchment, this is part of a longer-term project that we hope will be commencing later this year. A key aspect of this will be a wide ranging public and stakeholder engagement programme giving everyone the opportunity to express their views. Look out for more information on this later in the year.

Fencing Works Newchurch Moors

Tree works to make paths safe and open out views across the site

In conjunction with the fencing works we have been carrying out tree and scrub works. To accommodate the replacement fencing and new fencing we have carried out some tree and scrub clearance, while also felling, coppicing and pollarding trees deemed a risk to public areas like the footpaths. Some trees have also been removed to reduce shading to the river channel. The substantial number of mature willow and poplar trees that are decaying pose a health and safety risk so have had to be removed.

We have left as many trees as possible but more works are needed to reduce the risk to safety from these decaying trees collapsing, this work will be carried out over the next year. Some smaller scrub vegetation was also removed to aid installation of the fence; this will be allowed to grow back and was done in a sensitive way in regards to breeding seasons.

Some of the clearance works have improved sight lines across the site. It is within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) but land still has to be managed to conserve the key features the area is designated for - in this case the wildlife and habitats which we are protecting and restoring.    

The long term picture

As part of our longer-term plans we will be providing an interpretation area and viewing platform on site in a new area for the public. This will be a wheelchair/pushchair accessible platform giving elevated views across the site and an opportunity to see some of the restoration works and recovering wetland habitats as well as the on site wildlife.  We hope to have this in place as soon as possible, but as we, like many other charities. have been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic on funding, we cannot put an exact timeframe on the work. 

In addition to the work mentioned, we are looking at improving access across Martins Wood and the Hill Heath area with path improvements and the removal of old internal fences. We continue to manage the habitats for wildlife, by improving the woodland areas through coppicing and thinning works. Sadly we have seen an increase in anti-social behaviour on site, which we are working to address with messaging regarding dog fouling and the use of mountain bikes on footpaths.

We are also assisting the parish with the new footbridge at Langstone, with the bridge sited on our land.

We are already seeing nature recover and species increase and re-establish. The focus of our work is always nature's recovery and at this time of climate and ecological crisis this positive work is absolutely essential. The work the Trust is doing is just that, whether it be wilding, conserving key habitats and species or managing land to maximise biodiversity. We employ a range of methods and techniques to do this. Ultimately this is about restoring and creating a connected, functioning landscape that promotes the Islands fantastic natural heritage for future generations to enjoy.

For any further queries please feel free to contact Feedback@hiwwt.org.uk