Inside the compound

The first muck-in at St Aidan’s Nature Reserve since the start of the pandemic took place yesterday morning. The plan was to reduce the amount of ragwort, so that the cattle which graze on the site are less likely to consume it and become ill.

The section of land we were going to clear was in a section of the reserve which had been fox-proofed.

To be honest, I’d never actually taken any notice of the fences protecting ground-nesting birds but it was a privilege to get the opportunity to see the site from the middle outwards. Normally, visitors to the site see from the edges looking it.

The ragwort is the yellow flowers which look a little like tall daisies. There is another yellow flower in the photos, which is bird’s foot trefoil.

Gavin, RSPB Community Engagement Officer, explained that a number of people had written to complain about the removal of the ragwort. Whilst it is a valuable native species, however, the RSPB deems it better to remove the plant from some sections so that the cattle can graze. This in turn increases the biodiversity in the area where the cattle have grazed.

It was clear, in any case, that no matter how much work we put in with our special forks – these lift the ground and then enable the user to more easily pull a plant out by its roots – we would never clear all ragwort from the compound area.

Whether or not the Canada geese appreciated our efforts, as we were walking out of the compound at the end of our session, we saw a gaggle of them by the path. Can you see them, too?

About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
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16 Responses to Inside the compound

  1. Going Batty in Wales says:

    Every wild plant has its uses but can cause problems too. How to manage an ecosystem is all a matter of balance and removing some ragwort to protect the cattle is hardly any different to fox-proofing an area to help birds. One strategy would be to leave everything alone but if we interfere we must know why and the pros and cos of what we do.

  2. As I understand it from research, the dangers of ragwort are much exaggerated. I don’t know enough about it to make further comment, but you may like to read this link.

    • Helen says:

      Thank you for the link.

      The issue at St Aidan’s is that the graziers won’t send their animals because of the ragwort, which though not as toxic as is made out still might make the cows poorly if they eat a lot of it. It’s not very humane to wilfully make an animal ill, is it, so logically it makes sense to enable livestock to eat without these repercussions.

  3. I wasn’t suggesting that animals should be made to eat ragwort. I was just providing a link to an article that points out that animals rarely, if ever, eat live ragwort on properly managed grazing, and that the main problem is ragwort that is included in hay.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, Gavin did mention hay being one of the reasons for removing the ragwort.

      Personally, I think that the RSPB are right to remove as much ragwort from the enclosed area for the sake of ‘properly managed grazing’. The enclosure is only a part of the site and there is plenty of ragwort elsewhere. If the graziers will only put their animals on land with reduced risks, I’m not sure what else the RSPB can do.

  4. The RSPB attitude is a good one. As a matter of interest a local common has reintroduced ponies in order to foster regeneration of the natural ecology

  5. nanacathy2 says:

    Oh dear another can of worms! But Good to be involved in a community effort.

I love to read about your own experiences and any other feedback you have, so look forward to your comments below.

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