It's an exciting time at Campfield Marsh at the moment. We have just started our CSS capital works and there are diggers galore on the farm. So what does this involve? Well it's probably best to start from the beginning! To set the scene.....our old stewardship scheme was coming to an end.... lapwing numbers on the wet grassland were good but they weren't great....prodcutivity for breeding waders was good but not great... we could do better. The solution....apply for Countryside Stewardship with a exciting new plan. Off we went to our local NE advisor and talked to her about what we wanted to do.....two years and a few forms later....the diggers arrive!
What was our exciting new plan? Well it's not exactly new to the RSPB, with sites like Frampton Marsh executing similar set ups for a few years now. Dynamic water system is at the heart of our new scheme. (I'll try not to say dynamic too much in this piece but it is hard not to!) Breeding lapwing numbers on the farm traditionally have always done well after we have acquired new farmland and particularly straight after we wet areas of grassland up for the first year. In the following years numbers slowly went down as the habitat becomes rushy and invertebrate (food for the waders) numbers go down. It's the initial flush of wet grassland that waders respond to so we decided we could do a 'Frampton' and develop a system that creates this newly wet habitat year after year.
One of the main strengths to places like Frampton Marsh is that they have access to fresh water sources they can use to divert water where they want. Here at Campfield we aren't near to any freshwater rivers, lagoons or lakes. However when you walk around the farm you sometimes hear running water underfoot particularly at places near the bog edge. Well these are over spill drains from the bog. In the winter the bog fills with water and any excess pours of down drainage ditches keeping it away from farmland and sending it straight into the Solway. We've looked at these and come up with a series of sluices and ditches which allow us to move water onto the parts of the farm we want wet and to keep them away from areas we want dry. The most important part of this system is we can change those areas up so a once wet area we can dry out and a once dry area we can wet up......which will create the newly wet habitat the lapwings like! Bingo moment!
Shot of the pond in front of the hide which will be the main holding area for water before being let onto the farm at a sluice in the corner of field. Digger sitting in the middle. At the moment the mud is exposed and can been seen from the hide....as water levels rise this could be a good area for wildlife.
So we've done all this work and we are sitting in a couple of years time with lapwing everywhere (that is the dream!) but productivity is still low, it's shocking even...this amazing habitat has brought in loads of lovely waders and with it the things that like to eat them. So as well as a dynamic water system we are also putting a whacking long predator fence to help the waders have the best possible start. This is a wire mesh fence dug into the ground with electric live wires on the top. There's a little bit more to it than that but there's the basic principle.
Area in front of the hide showing bund work along the back of the wood for the electric fence. This is extremely wet and as expected quite the task for Open Space our contractors.
So what does this mean for you if you want to visitor Campfield Marsh in the next couple of months? Well if you love a bit of digger action - you are in for a treat! All paths are open at the moment but there may be areas where diggers are working near to the paths. Where needed we will pop a sign up to let you know. We may need to close some of the trails but it won't effect access too much. We hope to be finished all the work before Christmas!
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