Saturday, 13 July 2013

Bracken Bashing

Since May 2010 I have been bashing the bracken on the Ride, (with occasional help from a Grandson). Not only bashing it with a stick, but also nipping its tops off with my fingers.  Especially satisfying is to snap the tops just as after they’ve pushed their coiled heads through the ground. To be effective, this task must be begun in May, as soon as the bracken starts to appear, and carried out thoroughly at least once a week until early September when it at last gives up the ghost, turning brittle and brown, collapsing onto the ground.
One is well rewarded for this work. In the Spring of 2012, the area at the end of OC1 on the SSSI side of the Ride was smothered in bluebells, and this year their numbers had increased even further. When I began , this same area had not a single bluebell, only dead brown earth covered with a mat of dead bracken. What a result.
In addition to abundant bluebells, the grass cover has increased both in volume and in its diversity of grasses, flowers, and herbs. We’ve noticed many more butterflies and insects on the Ride. All very gratifying. The grasses are    rapidly spreading from the Ride into the trees. Much of this has happened where Ride side thinning has not yet begun (ie at the top of the Ride on the SSSI side) so it is arguably  not a result of letting in more light. It seems  that these improvements are due simply  to the removal of bracken as soon as it appears.
The same thing is happening on the new Ride, reaching down to the pond, where I have been bashing the bracken since the area was cleared of some trees (though more need to be felled) during late 2011.
Sarah and I also started bracken bashing in the Glade after it was cleared in January 2010. We experimented with thoroughly removing the bracken on one side of the glade, starting in the Spring of 2011, and continuing to 2012, in order to see if the foxgloves and other flora increased in number.  It did. However, this Spring we were busy with making a start on work in OC2 so we were unable to find time to tackle the Glade. Sadly, monster bracken has returned with a vengeance, ominously circling the temporarily increased area of foxgloves.

I’ve noticed that year on year, the bracken seems to get weedier, though I don’t know if it would revert back to its monster size if I stopped bashing it for a year. Will it  eventually give up? I hope so.