MCT October Activities in 2013

We have taken advantage of recent heavy rain to locate the deepest puddles and muddiest patches on parts of the path to prioritize path repair areas.  You may notice that in places we are slowly trying to restore the path to its original width.  This removes mud, reduces grass encroachment and makes passing easier for path users.

Some work will be done on trimming tops of younger willows soon, to keep these to a manageable size in the longer term, especially where ultimately they could become dangerous to people and/or property.

At our advertized volunteers’ day on October 16th a group, mainly from the University of York, worked through the afternoon rain to measure soil pH at 2 depths at many points across the site.  The survey confirmed the calcareous nature of the soils and showed expected effects on soils of tree growth, the path construction and local topography.  This bodes well for greater establishment of field scabious on the site.

Work has started on tidying the patch of land adjacent to the playground along Nelsons Lane.  Some small trees and shrubs will be removed or pruned to improve vision of road users around the bend in the Lane.  The number of thistles is being reduced (to prevent these become a major problem as they spread) and the diversity of bee/butterfly-friendly wildflowers will be improved by selective reseeding.

Mike Ridealgh continued his wildflower species survey on October 12th; more than 50 species have now been found on the site.  We hopefully will be increasing numbers of some scarce species using seeds of local provenance.  200 freshly-lifted English bluebells of local provenance have been purchased and are being planted at the northern end of the western bund to see how well they establish in the dappled shade there.  We hope to establish clumps of local foxgloves there too.

The start of October

The good weather throughout much of September allowed us to make good progress on reducing heights of overgrown Hazel and Dogwood along the western bund and removing large amounts of dead plant material, especially from the overgrown rose varieties. Finishing this on the western bund will be a priority in early October.  Most cut leafy material is bagged and taken off site for composting, to reduce imacts of atmospheric nitrogen pollutant deposition on the site.  Eventually though small compost areas will be established on the site too, partly for habitat creation.  As in our plan we have been improving the path to try to avoid it becoming unpassably muddy in places.  Near the gate at Nelsons Lane this involved removal of turfs that had grown over the main original path, and  breaking up the surface of the path and sieving to remove the excessive amounts of fine material present.  This should improve drainage considerably but we will be watching closely in the next heavy rain.  At least the path now passes on the correct side of the dog waste bins!  Also, as in our plan, we have mown grass strips either side of the path (to 7.5 cm height)  to reduce grass  encroachment and encourage smaller wildflowers.  Grass content (especially large tussocks) has been reduced slightly by cutting and/or pulling on the main meadow area to facilitate  growth of taller wildflowers.  Some reseeding is envisaged for October.  At the start of October numerous thistles by the fence at the south of the site were removed by hand weeding to prevent excessive seeding making these a major problem in future (as happened on Hob Moor).  The size of willows near the gate is also becoming a problem and trimming is urgently needed.  We had to remove 3 dead Scots Pine which had been killed there by excessive shading and water and nutrient stress.