Management planning on Mutter's Moor

View across Mutter's MoorUpdating our 10 year management plan for the heaths provides a great opportunity to review the state of ecological health of the various commons under our care, and evaluate the success of past management work. Yesterday it was the turn of Mutter's Moor to come under the management gaze.

Although an outlier of the main core of the Pebblebed heaths and not enjoying the same European conservation designations, nevertheless Mutter's Moor is a fantastic wildlife site much loved by the local population of Sidmouth amongst others. It is designated a County Wildlife Site and is currently assessed by Natural England as being in a state of recovery from lack of mangement during the early to mid 1900s. Essentially this means that the wildlife value of the site is improving, but there is still work to be done. In fact, with heathlands the work can never be truly considered to be 'complete' as they are always trying to revert to woodland whenever you turn your back! Management is a life sentence, although a richly rewarding one!


It was a fantastic afternoon to look at the site in detail. The sun was shining and the air was rich with popping sounds as tens of thousands of Western gorse pods exploded to release their load of light seed. 

Grayling butterflies were particularly evident, and for much of the afternoon pairs of stonechats were calling from their soundposts with their distinctive pebble tapping voice. One of the most conspicuous elements of Mutter's Moor at this time of year is the spaghetti-like parasitic dodder which covers many gorse bushes.

During the spring 2013 a number of management works were done on the site, including four small swail (burn) sites to generate a greater diversity of age structure of the vegetation, and scrub clearance of birch where it is encroaching onto the heaths. Six months on, all sites are showing excellent regeneration of gorse seedlings, although some follow up treatment of birch stumps and bracken control is required. Over the past few years we have been working to eradicate a large clump of bamboo, which is provinng successful, with other non native invasives being very rare. A lone Rhododenron and Buddleia bush are the most notable of these and we will remove these shortly.

It can be problematic balancing the various elements of the landscape. Birch encroachment is a considerable problem on the moor, especially in the central section. Although this immature woodland is a popular landscape aethetic with local walkers, further works are required to remove some of this and keep the heathland in good condition.

The main focus of future management over the coming years will be to continue undertaking small winter burns to maintain a high diversity of heathland age structures, and scrub clearance, ensuring that follow up monitoring is done to be sure that all interventions are having the intended impact.  

 Western gorse seed pods 



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