Marston Marsh – Willow Coppicing

Friday 26th February 2016

We are getting close to the end of our ‘cutting back and burning’ season now and what makes this work seasonal is the bird’s (and other wildlife) nesting. As the evenings draw out, the weather becomes (supposedly) warmer, leaves begin to appear on the trees and the birds begin to make their voices heard. These are all signs that the nest building season is almost upon us and as we don’t wish to disturb our feathered friends in their nest building, so we move on to other types of work.

However, before we start thinking about cutting the grass to keep the footpaths open, we still had some clearing and maintenance work to do on Marston Marsh, which is where we were today. Matt had two tasks on our work agenda today, coppicing some willow trees and installing another gate in the cattle corral, to make it easier to manage the moving of the cows and their calves from the marshes at the end of the year.

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The willow coppicing was to be carried out around a pond in an area where the cattle are not allowed. The reason for the cattle restriction is Crassula helmsii commonly known as New Zealand Pigmyweed or Australian Swamp-stonecrop. This is an invasive non-native species and this week just happens to be “Invasive Species Week’’ which will help to raise awareness and the prevention of the spread of these types of species across Britain. The following website ‘The GB non-native species secretariat (NNSS)’ contains a lot more information on New Zealand Pigmyweed and other invasive non-native species, so it is well worth a look by clicking on the link provided above. They also provide a handy id sheet detailing what to look out for which I have also included a link to here.

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To prevent the weed from spreading in the marsh and into the dyke systems, the general public and the cattle are kept away from the pond site. Although the weed does not produce any viable seeds, it is able to regenerate from small, broken off fragments of the plant and the best way to manage the problem is to let the pond silt up and allow the reeds and rushes to slowly dry out the pond.

There was a lot of coppicing to be done, too much for one day.  We did manage to coppice most of the willow trees that were around the pond, and those that remain will be tackled on another day. Pete got a good fire going by the side of the pond and by the end of our day we had managed to burn all that had been chopped down.

Written by Alan Rae, Norwich Fringe Project Volunteer.