Paul Radford, one of our hard working Wardening Team has put together a few words on the ongoing reedbed management works out on the marsh...

Over to Paul:

It’s not unusual to see members of the Wardening Team covered in mud and stinking of ditch water during the extremely busy Autumn and Winter months.  However, 2019 is proving to be exceptionally busy, as management and support of contractors carrying out habitat, trackway and fencing improvements on Wennington and Rainham West Marshes has been added to the regular seasonal tasks of topping, reedbed management, grassland mowing, pipe and culvert clearing, scrape re-profiling, water monitoring and pumping, anti-predator fence maintenance, running corporate days, trail vegetation clearance and boardwalk repairs.  Oh, and there is the annual report to write, where performance against objectives and activity targets for each of the habitats is assessed.


Fortunately, we are extremely lucky to have a big team of volunteers to help with these various tasks, and over the coming weeks we will provide a bit more information about some of the activities mentioned above and how volunteers contribute to these.  This week’s focus is on reedbed management.


Annual rotational cutting of a proportion of the 29 hectares of reedbed is both vital for the health of this habitat, and a requirement of our higher level stewardship (HLS) agreement with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  Cutting is carried out with brushcutters, and the main factors influencing where we choose to cut are accessibility (some areas are just too wet), where we have cut in previous years, and where we can create channels that enhance the visitor experience both through opening up views across the marshes and along ditches, and increasing the chance of seeing reedbed species including Water Rail and Bearded Tit.  Our HLS agreement also stipulates that every effort must be made to remove cut reed.  We do this by raking and lifting the reed into builders sacks and dragging them out of the beds. 

Volunteers get involved with every aspect of this management.  Some of our work party are brushcutter trained, and all have developed a highly proficient raking and bagging technique.  Despite how good they are, there is just far too much reed to clear on our own.  To give you a little context; to clear the cut area around the Purfleet Hide took three two hour sessions of around 15 people, who filled the equivalent of over 200 tonne bags.  These sessions are the ideal opportunity to get in corporate groups from organisations including PWC, Santander and even the RSPB in the form of the F2F membership team.  These teams really enjoy spending a day out in the fresh air, away from the office, and help massively with a task which is too big for us to do on our own.

 Further reedbed cutting will continue over the coming weeks, with more of a focus on opening up views (so don’t buy that periscope just yet).  We’ve already cut in front of the MDZ and will tackle various other locations including the woodland channel and the view over the target pools.


Lastly, the builder’s sack (or tonne bag) is a vital accessory for removing reed, but they only last so long.  Therefore, if you (or any family and friends) have any of these lying about, all donations would be gratefully received.