At this time of year, the bracken is growing to a monstrous size, in some places becoming impassable without a struggle, making parts of the wood no go areas. There seems to be much more of it in OC1 (South 15 acres) where it is most insistent in the few small areas that have been clear felled of birch and/or Scots Pine. This has allowed the sun in, and the bracken to completely take over from early June to late September.
During the winter of 20011 a new glade was created in the Scots Pine adjacent to the Pond.The spot was chosen because the pine was quite sparse , so not much felling was involved. Unfortunately, once the pines were removed, the bracken immediately rushed in, growing taller each year until now it is impossible to get through.
The felled pine trees in the new glade, cut to lengths
The resulting sea of bracken
A path, bracken bashed from the clearing to the cabin . Recently I disturbed a large grass snake while it basked in the sun on the path, and watched as it slithered away into the bracken.
Bracken deprives other species of light, makes a deep litter of dead rust brown leaves in the Autumn and produces chemicals that inhibit seed germination and seedling growth , thus preventing regeneration. Bluebells seem most able to survive it, primarily because they emerge before the bracken gets going, though we've seen increased bluebell cover where the bracken has been removed so it doesn't smother the bluebell bulbs in heaps of dead leaves.. Mosses seem able to flourish underneath it, but very little else. Historically, bracken was harvested for a number of uses, but since this ceased it has spread unchecked, particularly in dry acid soil, of which much of Old Copse is composed. It spreads by underground rhizomes or on bare ground by spores.
|Sarah, bracken bashing in the 'car park clearing', made in 2010|
bracken control. Treating with herbicide , except we don't want to use herbicides in the wood. Regular rolling - with what, we''re not clear; and other manual methods such as frequent pulling, breaking, and top whipping all of which can be done quite easily, it's not hard work, and children enjoy it , especially if a small bribe is on offer - the problem is that it's time consuming. Some people advise getting a few pigs in - but as well as rooting out the bracken and brambles (good), they'll eat the bluebell bulbs (not good).
The first small clearing we made in the birch in 2010 was developing a nice line in foxgloves and bluebells primarily because of our strict bracken control. However, recent monitoring indicates reduced flowering . This would appear to be because control has been neglected in the clearing because the two of us simply do not have the time to do it as regularly as it needs. But it might also be because of the increased amount of grass which is growing taller each year and might add to the struggle that some ground flora will have.
Where the tractor and digger compressed and turned over the ground during the cabin build last year, the bracken is making determined efforts to return to full strength, but it is easier to control around the cabin.. It's interesting to see what is coming up in its stead. We haven't so far identified all of the plants, and are hoping that the deer don't make a meal of the new growth.