We had another brilliant turn out on our volunteer day last Sunday, with 4 new faces and plenty of regulars! This time the North Cornwall volunteer work party could be found down in Porth Mear, near Park Head carrying out our biennial trim of the reed bed.
Reedbeds are formed from the many strands or Phragmites australis, also know as common reed. They are hugely important habitats for a wide range of wildlife including many birds and invertebrates. If not managed, nature would take its course and the reed bed would dry out and become scrubby woodland, becoming dominated by willow and alder. By cutting the reed once every two years and removing any willow and alder saplings, it encourages fresh reed growth and maintains this valuable habitat. Importantly, when we cut the reed, we rake off all our cuttings and any leaf litter to prevent further nutrient enrichment of the soil and allowing the reed to remain dominant. We manage the reed bed on a 2 year rotation, cutting half one year and the other half the next. This means that we end up creating small glades, areas of open wetland and reed edge which is ideal for a diversity of wildlife.
We used traditional cutting tools called slashers. This is a great way of learning about past management techniques as it gives us an insight into the hard graft of how the reed would previously have been cut for use in thatching. Its also good a good all round workout as well! Everybody was pretty keen to take a breather whenever tea break was called!
With 8 volunteers joining us for the day, we achieved a huge amount, cutting more than half of this year’s workload and removing a large amount of alder saplings. Cheers for all the help guys.
The next day Pete (one of our full time volunteers) and I returned to the reed bed with some petrol power in the form of a couple of brushcutters. Despite some fairly wild weather, hail and heavy rain showers, we cracked on and should see the job completed with one more days work. Pete was certainly glad to abandon his slasher for the more familiar brushcutter, allowing his hands to take a break from this traditional but less used tool!
North Cornwall Ranger