The National Trust for Jersey are looking to appoint a volunteer planter to assist in the planting of bare root hedging and tree whips (45-60 cm) on designated field boundaries working eastwards between the Zoo and Rozel Manor/Fliquet.
Once planted the whips will be fitted with spiral guards or trees shelters as appropriate
The majority of the 5,000 holes to plant the whips have been dug to allow them to be slot planted. Spiral protection has to be fitted to a lot of the hedging that has already been planted and this type of work is less arduous and would suit those who are not so physically strong
There is the potential of work in the summer as well, maintaining the planting in order to control competing vegetation.
The appointee will be responsible to Conrad Evans – Project Coordinator or National Trust Supervisor in his absence. The appointee will need to be:
Own transport to site and meeting at designated working site which will vary as progress is made
You will need to wear appropriate clothing, gloves and footwear and provide food and drink for your own welfare
Looking after the tools, plants and materials that will be provided
Complying with the risk assessment that will be given to all volunteers.
Working with minimal supervision from time to time taking care of your own health and safety in line with the likely working conditions to be expected
Be respectful of the land, environment and any livestock encountered
Deal politely with any public interest
To have the ability to work as part of a team to a high standard.
Being physically fit and able is a vital condition of the task
Basic gardening, horticulture or labouring
Ability to work under own initiative having been given initial instruction.
Monday to Friday between 0830 and 1530
Minimum of 4 hours per session to ensure efficiency and a reasonable level of production.
Contact and any necessary medical details will be required but ALL information held with be kept in the strictest confidence.
A meeting was held last August last year at the request of Dru Burdon from the Jersey Hedgehog Preservation Group as she was so frustrated and upset at the number of hedgehogs coming in with severe injuries. That meeting was attended by about 20 individuals/environmental organisations together with the Natural Environment Department, the Comité des Connétables and the Jersey Farmers’ Union to revise the branchage practice for the benefit of the Island’s fauna and flora. It was proposed that a small committee be formed to identify how we could improve the situation and myself together with Bob Tompkins, Neil Singleton, Alli Caldeira, Dru Burdon, Rose Anne Mitchell and Chris Perkins put our hands up! We are by no means experts in land management but we have endeavoured to seek advice and input from those in the know. Over recent months we have rewritten the branchage guidelines and hope that the revised version will be easier to understand with clear examples of photos and a diagram of best practice.
A training session was organised on 30 May and hosted by Peter le Maistre, the President of the Jersey Farmers’ Union attended by about 50 farmers and contractors, representatives of environmental organisations and John Pinel, Principal Ecologist and Assistant Director of the Natural Environment Department. It was a very successful event with honest and constructive dialogue between all concerned. One of the farmers stated that this was the first time environmentalists and farmers had come together to discuss these issues and this process should continue as it had been incredibly helpful and positive. He also suggested that results of wildlife monitoring (as a result of the new branchage regime) should be reported back to the farmers.
Peter Le Maistre and Ian Le Brun (Jersey Royal Potato Company) had earlier that week cut three examples of branchaging to demonstrate to those present and provide an opportunity for discussion and a compromise was agreed whereby the lower part of the banque is cut to a minimum height of 10cm but the top is left uncut, as this will give wildlife a chance of survival but still adhere to the branchage law. Revised guidelines on best practice for hedgerow, tree and banque (bank) management have now been agreed and will be published by Natural Environment.
Alastair Christie, the Asian Hornet Coordinator also gave a presentation on signs to look out for when undertaking the branchage process and safe working practices.
Our farmers have a symbiotic relationship with the landscape and the large majority of them (particularly those present at the meeting) consider themselves every bit as much an environmentalist. The planting of trees and hedgerows by farmers over the years has contributed to the health of our countryside and they are supportive of improving the biodiversity of our banques and hedgerows.
The Branchage Law dates back to 1914 when the aim was to improve the safety for road users and pedestrians. This is still the case today, however, a misunderstanding/misinterpretation of the law has been allowed to happen and this idea of a ‘neat and tidy’ landscape needs to be done away with. The law is very specific and, as long as a height of 3.7 metres above roads and 2.4 metres above footpaths is adhered to, then the Connétables are happy with this. The banques do not need to be cut down to the bare soil and, as long as vegetation does not overhang the road/footpaths, then the tops can be left uncut. This will allow the desired vegetation to seed but, more importantly, the protection of animals such as hedgehogs, lizards, slow worms and fledgling birds.
Work needs to continue in making private landowners and landlords aware of the new guidelines. Some tenant farmers have been told they risk having fields taken away from them if they don’t make everything ‘neat and tidy’ and it is disheartening when they adhere to the LEAF (Linking Environment & Farming) guidelines and only cut hedges every two years to then find that neighbours cut everything to the bare soil. John Pinel advised that there is legislation in place to prevent the removal of hedges and he offered support to the farmers in generating positive discussions with landowners regarding best working practices.
One of the issues mentioned at an earlier discussion was that machine operators often suffer abuse from motorists when holding up the traffic and also from home owners if the operators go out early in the morning to avoid the motorists. We sought advice from the Connétables who were present at the meeting and Len Norman advised that the Connétables were willing to close the roads to enable the branchage to be undertaken safely. It’s not easy operating machinery, trying to check where the flail is along the banque and at the same time looking out for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists so, if the level of stress can be reduced, that can only be a good thing.
I was delighted with the outcome of the meeting and, having been involved in this campaign, I have a much deeper understanding and respect for the work that our farmers do.
We have produced two sets of guidelines – a condensed version (which could be kept in the cab of a vehicle to refer to – download this version here) and the more comprehensive version which is still to be formalised by the Natural Environment Department with photos and diagrams (download the draft of this here). Polish and Portuguese versions of the condensed report are available – please check relevant websites or contact Birds On The Edge.
The intention is to distribute these guidelines to private contractors and have them available on Parish and Government of Jersey websites for Island wide use.
To some of us, nothing signals the arrival of the colder months as much as the bloom of the sunflowers from the BOTE winter bird crops across the Island. Their bold colours are the sign that the fields will again produce a good amount of seeds right at the time of the year when our farmland birds need them the most.
Just as the blooming of the crops signals the goodness to come, other signs go up, the ones that we put at the edges of the fields to inform neighbours and visitors about the role of the fields and their importance to the birds.
Away from their breeding grounds, be they here in Jersey or in far corners of Europe, once the birds arrive at the crops that we’ve prepared for them, all they have to do is survive. This translates in wildlife terms to “eat and do not be eaten”, and this is why the crops play such a crucial role: the seed from the crops provides the food, the structure of the crops and nearby hedges provides cover – from predators and bad weather.
All the birds need at this point is to be left to it, so whilst more and more people love the sight of these impressive flocks by the crops, we ask everybody to enjoy the view from the boundaries and footpaths, and not scare the birds away from their food and shelter.
This winter, with over 60 fields planted at fourteen sites across the Island, is already turning out to be one of the most interesting years that we’ve had at Birds On The Edge.
In late October, when birds started to flock to the crops our resident chaffinches, greenfinches, goldfinches and linnets were joined not only by their continental relatives arriving from the north and the east, but also by other species of finches which we do not usually see in Jersey, in particular dozens, maybe hundreds of bramblings. In comparison, the previous winter only two representatives of this colourful finch were seen at the crops.
Bramblings will hang out with chaffinches and other finches, and have no problem following them to people’s gardens to feed, so if you start seeing chaffinches in your garden, particularly if the weather turns very cold, keep your eyes peeled for bramblings, they will be making their way there soon.
In conclusion, seeing that these hungry bramblings that found their way to Jersey and to the crops are feeding in them is a great sign that the fields are doing their job – providing sustenance for birds in need is exactly what they were planted for.
The seed for the crops was bought with a generous donation from Action For Wildlife Jersey and a grant from the Countryside Enhancement Scheme. Action For Wildlife Jersey is a local group of nature enthusiasts and experts on various fields (excuse the pun) who organise many educational walks and talks throughout the year. The many farmers, sponsors and everyone at BOTE hope that you are enjoying the winter bird crops as much as the birds already are.
July 2016 saw the official opening of Plémont Headland and for the first time in over 140 years (before the original “Plémont Hotel” was built in 1874) the public have been free to enjoy this special place.
Creating and protecting “green space” for people has been at the heart of the Plémont debate and acquisition and indeed forms a very important part of the National Trust for Jersey’s ethos. But ensuring that nature has a home is also a vital component of what we do and there has never been a time when action has been so desperately needed.
In 2015 The States Department of the Environment published the results of the Jersey Butterfly Monitoring Scheme after 10 years of collecting data across 38 sites by a team of dedicated volunteers. The results suggest that whilst Jersey’s butterflies might be faring slightly better to those in the UK, the surveyed population has still decreased by 14%, (compared to 29% in the UK). Interestingly Jersey’s butterfly population is doing best in semi-natural sites as opposed to those in agricultural or urban habitats where they are declining. In fact the green hairstreak is one species that is doing particularly well and has been recorded as increasing by 458% in the last 10 years as opposed to suffering a 40% decrease in the UK. This could be seen as a strong indication of the importance of managed semi-natural sites such as Plémont.
The creation of two ponds at Plémont was eagerly anticipated by the local toad and palmate newt population, who were literally queuing up to jump in upon their completion. For two consecutive years the Eastern Pond has been used by both species to breed. This year, the larger Western Pond has seen a whole new generation of toadlets emerge after metamorphosing from their tadpole stage.
Despite the amphibian successes, both ponds have experienced teething problems and most noticeably the appearance of the lime-green algal blooms. Spirogyra is a family of around 400 species of filamentous algae that is commonly found in freshwater and is indicative of clean water that has high concentrations of phosphates and nitrates. It can be easily removed but doing so would jeopardise any invertebrate life or tadpoles that would become encapsulated amongst the tiny strands of algae.
Another issue the ponds face is loss of water through evaporation, due to their exposed position to the sun, wind and transpiration – the evaporation of water from plant leaves. Whilst there is means to top up the water levels from a well, this would mean the introduction of more nutrients which would cause more algae. The proposed solution is to encourage more oxygenating plants and remove the algae once the toads have emerged from the water, decreasing the level of nutrients over time. Equilibrium will be reached, the water quality will improve and we will have to accept that the water levels will drop in the summer months. As long as there is water during the amphibians’ breeding period (February-June) the pond is serving its purpose and will act much like many natural ponds without constant water inflow.
Back in the spring of 2015 you may remember the huge mounds of sandy soil which were spread over the footprint of the demolished buildings. Over 7,000 tonnes of sandy soil, sourced from Les Quennevais and recycled soil from La Collette formed the base of what we now refer to as the restoration area. To create a heathland such as Les Landes we would need a free draining sandy soil with a low pH (pH 5-6 ideally) and low nutrient levels. It is easier to maintain a species-rich wild flower habitat when there are fewer nutrients in the soil. If you add fertiliser (or compost or a lot of manure) to the soil, a small number of competitive plants are able to rapidly exploit these extra nutrients. These species then tend to become dominant and other plants are less able to compete for space. Most plants rely on a relationship with fungi and soil micro-organisms in order to grow. Fertilisers have a negative impact on these organisms making it more difficult for the flowers to grow. With very little choice available, in the quantities we would need, a mixture of sandy soil, sourced from Les Quennevais and recycled sand from La Collette was chosen. Although the average pH was around 8.5, the particularly low nutrient status would mean far less of a burden when it would come to managing the developing vegetation.
This June our Conservation Officer, Jon Rault, assisted by the very knowledgeable local botanist Anne Haden, undertook a vegetation survey to assess how things have developed and have some interesting results. Around 50 plant species have so far been recorded including: wild carrot, toad rush, birds-foot-trefoil and small-flowered catchfly. Maritime Duneland plants such as fragrant evening-primrose, sea beet and sea radish have appeared, but this isn’t so surprising considering the origins of the soil, Les Quennevais of course being built on Dunes. Some more invasive plants such as the non-native cape cudweed and spotted medick which may need some management have become quite well established and some more exotic species including echium and Californian poppy have appeared as likely remnants of the holiday camp era.
Resent soil tests have confirmed that pH levels are still rather alkaline at between pH 8.5 and 8.9 and this is unlikely to change without any intervention due to the amount of concrete based material that must be underneath the layer of imported calcareous sand. Perhaps more encouraging is the nutrient status results from the same soil samples. For example, the amount of available phosphorus is currently between 8.8 and 25.8 mg/l with a “P index” of 0-3, compared to a recently tested former agricultural field which showed levels of available phosphorus at between 66.2 and 153.4mg/l giving a “P index” of between 4 and 7.
Our current situation, with the encouraging results of vegetation surveys, indicates that the soil choice was a good one. Whilst our soil pH is much higher than we would have ideally liked, this is something that can be changed by adding sulphur, an expensive but affective way of raising acidity. As the results from the former agricultural field’s shows, high soil fertility is much more of a problem with no “magic cure”.
The decision on whether to try to acidify our soil in the effort to meet our original vision of creating a heathland is not one that needs to be made straight away and whilst wildlife and people are clearly making good use of the site, we have already achieved much of what we wanted to do.
For the meanwhile, the addition of calcareous grassland to our north coast may be something of an oddity but this may also be its strength and reason to remain as such. A new and interesting patch adding heterogeneity to the landscape is something that’s often lacking.
Further decisions will be required but there will be a need to balance and create opportunities for nature as well as public access and enjoyment.
This piece was originally published in the National Trust for Jersey magazine Discover and is reprinted here with kind permission
The (Guernsey) Conservation Herd have been invited to graze L’Ancresse Common and were moved to the common on Sunday 2nd April.
La Société Conservation Herd were invited to graze the Common by Vale Commons Council as a trial to re-introduce grazing. This initiative has been set up under its new management regime which aims to protect the area as an important recreational and cultural site whilst also enhancing the internationally important grasslands.
L’Ancresse Common was historically grazed by inhabitants of Braye du Valle, who have rights to graze their animals there. As fewer households kept their own cows and it became less economically viable for dairy farms to graze theirs on the common, the number of grazing animals there reduced. Today, no inhabitants exercise their right to graze.
This loss of grazing has had a significant impact on the ecology of the common – the grassland has become tall and rank and areas have become established by gorse and brambles. The delicate wildflowers which require short, grazed grassland no longer have access to light and so are being lost from the common. This, in turn, leads to a loss of the insects, small mammals, bats and birds which rely on them.
La Société Conservation Herd
The Conservation Herd is a herd of eight Guernsey steers whose job is to manage grasslands to protect and enhance their diversity. La Société was approached by VCC to graze the common for several weeks, starting from April 2nd. This initiative is a trial of a longer-termed project which aims to see more grazing animals return to the common.
Julia Henney, the Conservation Herd’s manager, said, “We were delighted to be approached by VCC and asked to graze L’Ancresse Common. It is a vitally important site for Guernsey’s biodiversity and we hope that re-introducing grazing will help preserve it for many years to come. We have experience grazing common land, with the introduction of Operation Skylark at Port Soif Common. The local community offered so much support and the herd were well received and accepted onto Port Soif Common and we hope to replicate this success at L’Ancresse.”
Peter Blake, President of the Vales Commons Council said “Myself and my committee wish you and the herd a great stay on the Common and hope that this will encourage more of the inhabitants to do the same.”
The Conservation Herd will be grazing within electric fencing for several weeks around The Doyle area and will be checked daily by the team which cares for them. La Société and the Vale Commons Council would welcome assistance from regular dog walkers and people who walk or exercise around L’Ancresse. ‘Watchers’ are sought to keep an eye on the cattle when they’re passing and report any problems or concerns to the Conservation Herd team.
Temporary signs are placed around the site to explain the project and give information on who to contact in the event of an emergency.
Anyone who would like more information on the Conservation Herd is welcome to contact Julia Henneyat firstname.lastname@example.org and visit our online map here to track where they are grazing.