TREE POPPERING AND GRASS SEED COLLECTION AT RUDGE HILL COMMON
Cotswold Commons and Beechwoods NNR is the largest nature reserve in the Cotswolds. It is largely made up of a chain of beechwoods and limestone grasslands around the upper slopes of the Painswick Valley, in Gloucestershire. The NNR includes Rudge Hill common, formerly named Edge Common. Its status as a SSSI is under the name of Edge Common. The area of Rudge Hill is 0.3 hectares or 0.74 acres, a relatively small portion of the whole reserve.
The main habitats are woodland and limestone grassland. The grasslands of the commons feature a rich limestone flora which support a variety of insects, particularly butterflies. These include chalkhill blue, Adonis blue, small blue, dingy skipper, green hairstreak and, at Rudge Hill Common, the rare Duke of Burgundy fritillary.
The Cotswold Way passes through Edge Common.
Duke of Burgundy fritillary.
It is an unfortunate fact that the Ash tree is far too fertile for our liking and drops large numbers of seeds, many of which take root and grow and threaten to overwhelm the balance of the woodland on the site. Removing these by digging out is very disruptive but some clever chap has developed a “tree popper”. This is basically a long steel lever with jaws at the end which are used to grip the sapling at low level and then remove the sapling complete with its root causing minimal disturbance of the ground. Great exercise for the biceps.
The popper tool in action
On a nearby site, Bulls Cross, Natural England are preparing to install a small herd of cattle to graze throughout the summer. There is a concern that the existing grass might not be sufficient to sustain the cattle so grass seed is being harvested from other sites, including Rudge Hill, to be overseeded at Bulls Cross. The clever trick is that the grass seed will be scattered immediately before the cattle arrive so that they will trample it into the ground and there will be no loss to birds. Collecting grass seed is certainly a lot more restful than most of the tasks we tackle.
Drifting through the meadow gathering grass seed
The warden doing her fair share of the work