Friday, 11 October 2013

Rushy Common and Tar Lakes aftercare monitoring visit

Taking a good look over Rushy Common Nature Reserve
It's October, so time again for the annual monitoring visit with Oxfordshire County Council Minerals and Waste Team, the OCC Ecologist Planner and the Planning and Estates Manager from Smiths Bletchington to review progress. All mineral extraction sites have a five year period of aftercare following the completion of restoration to whatever landuse was agreed in the planning application for the site. This was the final aftercare visit for the nature reserve which now goes into a twenty year period of long term management before it is returned to the landowner.
An example of decisions made in these meetings is this pond which is one of two that were created in the nature reserve attached to a ditch that takes runoff from the neighbouring fields. It was realised that the ditches would be affected by this nutrient rich run off so they have now been separated from the ditch. Other aspects to consider when reviewing the management of the site include; the frequency and effectiveness of mowing the grasslands; weed control; hedgerow management; how to manage the vegetation on the islands in the lake, and many more that arise as the site develops..
The original plans for this site were designed in 1994-97 and it is interesting to hear how the plans would have been very different if the site had been designed today. However, it is very pleasing to be able to record nesting success by common tern and barn owl, good growth of a wide variety of plants and grasses and the successful establishment of areas of trees and scrub.
Tar Lakes is now in its third year of aftercare as an amenity lake with unrestricted public access. There are different issues here largely to do with the public access which can create problems that require unwanted solutions. For example, it was planned to have a conservation area between the two smaller lakes and special wild flower seed mixes were sown to create this special area. However, dogs and their owners were walking through the area so extra fencing had to be installed. The visual effect is not the most pleasing but, as time goes by, the bushes will grow and hide the fence. The positive side is that the flowers are growing and birds are using the site in greater numbers, such as these goldfinches enjoying feeding on the seeds of teazels.
The rest of the site is developing well with good establishment of trees and shrubs around the edges and there has been a great profusion of invertebrate life with thousands of damselflies in the summer months. The site is proving to be more and more popular with local people and will have many more delights to offer as it develops.

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