In a small corner of May Hill there are changes afoot. For some time a section of the hill has been fenced off from the rest of the grassland around the summit and had been managed for timber production. Since the last crop failed to thrive the management has been passed back to the National Trust. A project is now underway to turn this pocket of the hill from dense birch mixed with sweet chestnut, oak and other species into wood pasture. This habitat will provide an open woodland structure that offers shelter and forage for the National Trust’s Belted Galloway cattle and plenty of opportunity for wildlife to thrive.
We are in the early stages of this project (year three of ten to be precise). With a felling licence in place, contractors have been busy felling trees to widen the rides and glades. This will provide important habitat for wildlife by encouraging a mosaic of grassland and scrub species. This edge habitat is of particular value to invertebrates and birds.
Materials from the felling work are used as firewood (silver birch) and fencing stakes (sweet chestnut). These stakes were used on site to link up the boundary fence line which will stop cattle wandering off National Trust land when grazing the wood pasture area. Grazing will form part of the ongoing management. Before this happens work will be undertaken to clear around an existing pond to provide drinking water for the cattle.
Felling in the rides and glades has resulted in a lot of brash material to clear up. National Trust staff and volunteers from the Dean Green Team and Active National Trust Squad have been busy burning the brash on site. Contractors have also mulched areas and ground down stumps to enable mechanical management of the rides. Almost all the brash from the first year of felling has been mulched or burnt and with even more trees felled this winter there is a mountain of brash awaiting clear up during the next autumn/ winter.
The project has at least six years left with plenty still to do. It will be exciting to see how this site develops into prime wood pasture habitat for wildlife and the cattle of May Hill.
Ranger, Heart of the Cotswolds