Flower power on nature reserve

Flower power on nature reserve

A new project will bring to life the diversity of plants on a Lancashire nature reserve.

The Wet Grassland Project at Heysham Moss will also help to control and manage water levels and improve access for local people.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, supported by funding from Ørsted through their Walney Extension Community Fund, will be working to enhance the site with new hedges and wildflowers.

The project aims to enhance the floral diversity of the wet grassland habitat and enable the Wildlife Trust supporting the neighbouring raised bog, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Volunteers helping with levelling survey

North Lancashire Reserves Officer Reuben Neville said: “We have been managing the area of wet grassland at Heysham Moss since we bought the site in 2004. Since then changes in the surrounding landscape and recent extremes in annual weather patterns have forced us to re-evaluate our priorities for the area.”

The reserve sits within the Morecambe Coast and Lune Estuary area and is surrounding by low lying pastoral landscape of essentially coastal grazing marsh to the east and Heysham village to the west. In the past the extensive areas of grazing marsh would have supported breeding waders and wintering wildfowl.

Agricultural improvement, notably land drainage and more intensive silage production has meant that breeding waders such as redshank and lapwing have now been lost from the local area. At the time the Trust bought the reserve several pairs of lapwing were still recorded breeding in and around the reserve.

Compact mole plough ready for work

Reuben said: “More recently developments locally have isolated the reserve which is now surrounded on three sides. With breeding waders or wintering wildfowl unlikely to ever return to the areas of wet grassland, our management priorities have switched to enhancing the botanical diversity. A number of uncommon species, like sneezewort, greater birds-foot trefoil, skullcap and greater burnet are still present although these are now restricted and the area has become dominated by soft rush.

“Changing weather patterns, with very wet summers and relatively dry springs, have caused challenges for management and, in some years, we have been unable to put in place the desired cutting and grazing regimes. We need to put in the correct management regimes to stop the growth of less desirable species and benefit biodiversity on the reserve.”

This project aims to:

  • Put in place bunding (impermeable banks) and water control structures to improve our ability to manage the water levels in the grassland. This will also support the hydrology of the adjoining raised bog and wet woodland
  • Relieve water logging caused by compaction by undertaking sub-soiling
  • Open up existing ditches to facilitate water management and re-profile to enhance their value for biodiversity
  • Improve the botanical diversity by plug planting further wildflowers to boost the existing populations
  • Elevate the existing footpath to improve access around the grassland
  • Undertake hedge planting to screen the new developments adjoining the reserve
  • Re-instate cutting and grazing regime to manage and enhance the grassland into the future

Sub-soiling work has already been undertaken and bunding and ditch work is due to start early in the new year to be followed by hedge planting and a programme of wild flower plug planting.

For more information about the Walney Extenstion Community Fund and how to apply, please click here