Flailing & Mowing


Mowing of  dry heath can be used as an alternative to burning (swailing) to return maturing areas of heather to its pioneer stage, and can break up areas of even aged and homogeneous heath to increase their wildlife value. However, unlike an effective burn, mowing only removes the standing vegetation and leaves the lower layers and the litter layer intact. Thus, the effect on the accumulated nutrient stores is modest.  To ensure that the fertility of the heathland is not increased, mown material must be removed off site, and can raise problems of disposal, although if cut in autumn when the heather seed is ripe, the cut litter can be stored for later use in heathland restoration projects elsewhere. Like too frequent burning, regular mowing can encourage the growth or grasses at the expense of heather, and is thus avoided.  Where mowing can be highly useful is in the creation and maintenance of firebreaks which are managed yearly in the spring, and to circumscribe swail sites prior to burning to assist with fire control. 

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