Back to Work and Birds On The Edge

White Rock headland. Photo from Back to Work

By Christian Marcos

In early September, Birds On The Edge reported on Jersey’s Back to Work scheme. Since the middle of August, the Social Security Department and Department of the Environment have been trialing this scheme to help unemployed people in Jersey to gain skills and experience to gain permanent employment while carrying out dedicated projects in order to enhance Jersey’s biodiversity. This has tied in nicely with the Birds On The Edge project and has enabled the scheme to tackle tasks which directly benefit the aims of the project. Groups of 16 unemployed locals have been given necessary training and guided by Ecoscape, a local contractor with a wealth of environmental experience and know-how, tackling tasks which improve our local environment over six-week periods. To date over 45 candidates have joined the scheme, which will continue into the New Year.

Petit Plémont – Before management. Photo from Back to WorkBirds On The Edge has provided the groups with a variety of tasks to complete, all over the Island, which help to improve the participants skill set and work ethic, and at the same time have a large impact on the work and aims of the project.

One of the first projects targeted was at Petit Plémont, where the group cut and cleared a large amount of bracken Petit Plémont – After management. Photo from Back to Workand bramble mixed-scrub to encourage the re-colonisation of heathland associated vegetation. A total of 3,050m² (1.7 vergées or 0.75 acres) of bracken was cleared and removed from site.

Following the success of the first task the scheme continued to tackle more north coast bracken scrub, this time at White Rock. On this site there was a large area of bracken and bramble dominated scrub which again was cut and cleared to allow regeneration.

Egypt meadow. Photo from Back to WorkThe second group of workers from the Back to Work scheme continued where the last group left off, showing enthusiasm and interest for the aims of the project. They started by continuing the work at White Rock clearing remaining bramble and bracken and also clearing an amount of the invasive holm oak. A mosaic of areas has been cleared to date totalling 5,000m² (2.8 vergées or 1.3 acres). This second group then headed down to Egypt where the meadow was very overgrown. This large, recently neglected, meadow, which measures 9,300m² (5.17 vergées or 2.3 acres), was cut and cleared of the overgrown bracken, leaving only small islands of bracken to provide some shelter to the wildlife in the area. The tree canopy alongside the meadow was cut and raised to allow natural light through to encourage growth.

Noirmont Common SSI. Photo from Back to WorkThis group also set out to tackle tasks on the south coast, particularly at Noirmont Common Site of Special Ecological Interest. Here the groups set about clearing  Hottentot fig which had taken over large areas of the headland. 3500m² (1.9 vergées or 0.86 acres) of bracken and ivy were also cut back and raked. Large piles of raked mulch were then removed so that any native plants growing in the area were not suffocated and had a chance to grow back.

With the change and evolution in agricultural practises leaving Jersey’s coastal habitat under-managed and resulting in an ecological decline in their condition it is with great excitement that the Back to Work Scheme can be targeted to achieve the aims of the Birds On The Edge project. The work which has been carried out by the Scheme will continue to tackle the coastal restoration tasks and also go some way to help to promote public awareness of the importance of these coastal restoration projects.