On the morning of 1st April, after a cool and breezy start, around 17 members and guests joined LOHP for a gentle stroll around the fens identifying trees and looking out for other signs of spring along the way. We left Thelnetham Windmill behind us and strolled across Parkers Piece stopping to look at the small trees on the mound of earth created by scraping nearby peat. Moving across to the banks of the Little Ouse we looked at the various types of Willow, Sallow and Alder that can be found here.
Fenland Tree Walk © Bev Blackburn
Our leader Reg explained how some of the trees had been cleared, others left in situ and yet more were managed for safety, or enhanced for wildlife. Differing techniques employed included:
Coppicing: where the tree is cut close to the ground, causing it to regrow with many stems – can increase susceptibility to grazing from cattle and deer
Pollarding: similar to coppicing but cutting the stem at waist/shoulder levels – to provide diverse habitat for smaller birds
High Pollarding: as pollarding but higher up above grazing level - creates a spread of branches which can provide shade and potential nesting sites for birds out of reach of ground based predation.
Volunteers undertaking pollarding on Bettys Fen © Ellie Beach
We viewed different types of fen such as Webbs Fen which had wet and dryer areas and looked across to Bettys and Blo’ Norton Fens where there is more tree cover. Moving on towards Oak Tree Fen we saw more examples of new pollarding (planting poles directly in the ground to root) and other restoration work carried out by volunteers, before turning towards Hinderclay Fen where we passed the rare floating fen (Suffolk Wildlife Trust) and open drier landscape at previously farmed land on Reeves Meadows. As time was against us we crossed the new bridge into the western end of Hinderclay Fen to a tiny part of the wet woodland before returning across part of the wild flower walk to the wooded area on the southern bank of the river on our return to the start point.
Round up by LOHP Volunteer Tony