This week, our reserves are undergoing some changes and receiving some fancy summer makeovers. From our car parks to our fields, everything seems to be getting spruced up and upgraded. One of the main changes we are making across Exminster and Powderham is cutting and baling among our fields.

Cutting and baling is seen across the country and can be a great way of managing grassland for wildlife when carried out responsibly. Most of the year, our cows do a wonderful job munching away and keeping the grass under control. However, any long and tough grasses that they leave need to be dealt with as they often produce unfavourable habitats for other plants and animals. The long grasses are cut and left out to dry in the summer sunshine before being baled up and removed from the site. This leaves large open areas that can be populated by a range of plants rather than just grasses which tend to dominate an area, given the chance.

Once cutting of the field has been completed, our group of wonderful volunteers get geared up with brush-cutters to sweep alongside the ditches that the tractor wasn’t able to reach. Rather than just looking tidy, clearing away some dense ditch vegetation allows wildlife to reach the water more easily and utilise the water for feeding and shelter.

Next on the list, are our footpaths which have also been taking advantage of the good weather and slowly and steadily growing to Jumanji-like proportions. Ok, not that bad but all the same, we will be out this week cutting back brambles and grasses to clear up our walkways for easier use. Our car park has suffered slightly over the years and will see itself being resurfaced over the next couple of weeks to smooth out any lumps and bumps and potholes that may be present.

Bowling Green Marsh continues to improve and is nearly ready for its grand reveal when the shiny new fence will be done and dusted (and cow-proof...). Work continues on the wildlife garden at the hide which will be a wonderful addition to the Exe Estuary Reserves, showing people how best to utilise their spaces to make a home for nature. We helped last week to deliver several wheelbarrows of sand to the site and I can promise you that a lot of hard work and effort has gone into building this garden and I’m sure that the results will be fantastic. 

Part of our team headed down to Chapel wood this week. This broadleaved woodland near Barnstaple is a bit of a journey for us down here on the Exe Estuary but is a beautiful piece of land well worth a visit. This site was donated to us in 1951 and is a reserve rich in avian wildlife with tawny owls and woodpeckers being regularly seen. Our main reason for visiting the site is clearing the area of non-native species that compete with our own British plants and often do little or nothing to benefit our native animals. We are currently clearing Rhododendron, which although beautiful is not native to this country and reduces natural biodiversity through preventing areas such as woodlands from regenerating. The hard work carried out by the team this week is therefore very much appreciated and will help to support the wildlife that we naturally find living in this country.

Overall, everywhere that I have looked this week, I have seen people working hard to make the reserve the very best that it can be for the wildlife that we have here. I hope that you pay us a visit and enjoy the beautiful weather here and the wildlife that it offers for yourself.

Until next time!