Tuesday 28 April 2015

Restoring small urban 'pocket' woodland

I've been watching a few documentaries and reading a few articles and PDFs on restoring and managing urban 'pocket' woodland, especially that which is fairly young (50 years or so, maybe effectively abandoned in the 1960s). It might be on a fairly small patch of former industrial brownfield land, with a limited number of mature trees. Perhaps partly on a slope, even, and/or alongside a railway or old factory, which may have prevented development. The basics ten steps can be summed up as follows:

1. Pick up all the litter in the late winter / early spring. Every scrap of it. Then pick it up weekly or monthly, if you have an ongoing litter problem.

2. Put in a half-dozen bird boxes, fixed to the north-east side of the trunk, at just above six foot height. Higher, if yobs are likely to tear them down.

3. Add large chunks of nicely rotting wood from other sites, if not present. Place these in parts sheltered from the wind, if possible. Also consider transplanting sections of earth containing woodland fungi mycelium — half the wood is actually beneath your feet.

4. In November plant early spring native flowers for ground-cover, as bulbs and self-seeding seed. Plant the bulbs deeper than you might in a garden border, at three times the depth of the bulb length.

5. In a dark wood strategically clear bracken and bramble tangles, and lightly prune off the fingers of overhead branches, to create the first open sunny glades within the wood. But keep in mind that direct midday summer sun will blast and wither tender woodland plants - so "dappled light" should be the aim in your selective pruning. Consider adding a small water source in a glade, such as a large old sink or half-butt, half buried.

6. Raise the woodland 'canopy' from the floor by removing selected lower branches and suckers from all the larger trees and bushes. This lets more light reach the ground.

7. Contrary to popular opinion ivy is good for trees and wildlife, very good. Keep it, and encourage its progress, within limits in terms of it swamping the ground.

8. Discourage or prevent all dog walkers — research shows that the mere occasional presence of dogs in a nature reserve scares away a third of all the birds. Not to mention the health problems arising from dog shit, or the bizarre and disgusting practice of hanging little bags of dog shit from bushes and fences.

9. In an urban environment, take measures to discourage teenage yobs, scrambler motorbikes, outdoor sex enthusiasts ('doggers'), illegal fishermen, etc. Don't add any type of seating, for instance, or it will act as a magnet for anti-social behaviour. Clean up the 'territory marker' type of litter and graffiti immediately. In a larger wood add heavy tree-boles or ditches to discourage motorcycle 'scrambler' paths from forming.

10. Define a main path, but naturally close off others by encouraging their overgrowth and thus 'natural closure'.

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