Insights into Colaton Raleigh Common

Treated bracken area on Colaton RaleighAutumn is definitely arriving on the Commons, with the birch leaves yellowing, the bracken fronds dying back and the heather beginning to lose its vivid purple hue. Most of the afternoon today was spent mapping management issues on Colaton Raleigh Common as we begin the process of updating our management plan for the Commons over the winter. For the most part this Common is in good condition, although it is still recovering from a large 100ha accidental burn in 2010 which has left much of it as a single age structure which is not ideal for wildlife. Part of the Conservation Trust's work involves mappng all management interventions undertaken during the year to keep a good record of what has been done so we can monitor the impact of our work over time. Hopefully all will be positive for wildlife and access.

The summer period saw significant areas of bracken rolled or mowed, and the impacts of this work are now clearly visible, especially to the south of the B3180 and on the eastern-most portion of the Common. Keeping bracken under control is a major job. With ever increasing amounts of atmospheric nitrogen pollutants being dumped on the heath, bracken is likely to expand in the future and we are monitoring its enchroachment. The best means of controlling bracken is to remove the rhizomes altogther from the soil. Although possible, this is high impact work and a site to dump the material needs to be found. Chemical spraying can also be effective, but rarely eradicates the species altogether. Like all native species, however, in the right location bracken has its place, and as a component within a mosaic of vegetation types it has an important role to play as a wildlife habitat; one of our jobs is to make sure is stays controlled.

Despite entering its annual autumn fade, being a lovely afternoon with views out to sea, the heaths were packed with people. Several dozen Marines in camouflage could be seen undertaking exercises close to where our Devon Red cattle are grazing the southern damselfly site, and I counted upwards of 25 people within ten minutes on the main drag that rises to Woodbury Castle. This included five children treking back to their car head down against the wind. Its always great to see the youngsters out and we do want to encourage more of them to visit. On my way back home I just had time to stop near to Warren Car park and gather blackberries for supper, and was treated to a sight of a green woodpecker scuttling up and down a dead pine trunk.

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