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Long Mynd High Level Scheme

Long Mynd HLS: Monitoring and Managment Update  

Caroline Uff   November 2011

Most of the following monitoring and management work was carried out under the Long Mynd Higher Level Stewardship agreement and partly funded by Natural England.  This update focuses on work carried out during the spring and summer 2011.

 1. Heather / bilberry monitoring

 heatherbilberrymonitoring

Swathes of purple flowers across the whole the hill this year indicated that the heather continues to do well.  This reflects the appropriate grazing levels and negligible heather beetle impact. The detailed condition of heather and levels of grazing on the heath were reported on in the spring update (grazing impact lowest recorded and grazing damage to heather almost eradicated). 

Bilberry, however, had a poor year and fruiting levels appeared lower than usual.   This was, in the main, due to high numbers of a native micro-moth.  It is a natural event and should not affect the bilberry long term. 

On Stiperstones, Bilberry was found to be infected with a highly invasive non-native fungus called Phytophthora pseudosyringiae.  It is spreading across Europe and affects a variety of tree and shrub species.  Cannock Chase staff have been attempting to control a significant outbreak there over the last few years and the site has suffered significant loss of bilberry. Long Mynd is at ‘high risk’ and although it tested negative in the summer, it is being tested again this month.  If the disease is present we will have to take advice on whether any sort of restrictions should be put in place to limit its spread to other sites.
 
Heather is currently being cut and exported to Holland where it is used in biofilters (for filtering factory waste).  This contributes to our on going heather management, adding structural diversity to the heath which in turn helps wildlife such as red grouse.  It also decreases the amount of burning that we need to do this winter.


2. Wet Flush Condition

 wetflushconditions

The wet flushes are some of the most botanically rich areas of the site. Approximately every 5 yr the condition of these boggy areas of Long Mynd are monitored using national guidelines.  A full monitoring report is available. In brief, 24 flushes were sampled and all found to be well structured with a good range of species. They are improving in terms of structure, flowering levels, reduction in disturbance, dunging etc. This is a reflection of reduced stock levels.  However many failed to meet ‘good’ condition criteria.  The most common reason for this was the amount of soft rush, followed by the amount of ‘undesirable’ grasses. An additional sampling site at Pole Cottage was included in the survey to provide a baseline for measuring the impact (if any) of the new toilet on the surrounding vegetation.

This summer, several rare species of fly that had not been recorded in the county before were discovered by a local dipterist on Long Mynd flushes.


3. Water quality monitoring

waterqualitymonitoring

The water quality of the streams is monitored twice yearly as described in the spring report, and, until this autumn, findings have shown that the streams have been consistently rated ‘good quality’.  This November however, whilst Callow Hollow remained ‘high’ the area of stream outside the Chalet dropped to ‘fair quality’.  This may be due to a number of factors such as: recent low water levels, disturbance due to education / visitors, pollution from traffic/houses etc.  If the score remains low next spring, the stream will be studied in more detail to try and isolate the reason.  If this shows that disturbance is the cause, it is unlikely to change our education activities.  It will however highlight the importance of limiting the areas used for education activities to this small stretch of stream - a small price to pay for the longer term benefits of such education. 

 
4. Bracken control

brackencontrol

The bracken control carried out in 2010 (Callow Hollow) was successful with a good kill rate.  There was however some tree damage which can be seen in the photo (also see section 5).  17 ha of bracken were cut this year – mostly on Minton Hill.

With the help of volunteers, 7.6ha bracken were sprayed by knapsack this summer, to prevent its spread into heathland.  Control using an ATV did not take place as planned due to contractor illness. The use of Azulox, (the only chemical currently available that’s suitable for bracken control), has now been banned by the EU, except for using up existing stocks.  Unless the ban is overturned, 2012 may be the last year we carry out any chemical control of bracken. 


5. Trees

hawthornseeds

Seeds (photo), extracted and treated from Long Mynd hawthorn berries, were planted in various seed beds including the CMV garden and Dudmaston as well as the gardens of staff members.  They were collected by volunteers in 2009 and are now growing away and should be ready for planting on the hill next winter (2012).

When the results of the bracken control (2010) were assessed in June, some of the ancient hawthorn trees in Callow Hollow were found to have been significantly damaged (defoliated) and it is not known whether they will survive.  Trees should not have been affected by the chemical used for bracken control, but such damage was also seen in several sites in Wales which were treated this year.  It is thought to have been a result of the trees being under significant drought stress at the time of bracken spraying, possibly exacerbated by the very cold winter. 


6. Ground nesting birds recovery project

snipescrapessnipe

      Snipe image copyright: northeastwildife.co.uk

A detailed report from Leo Smith is in press!  It is clear that with the exception of red grouse (section 12), ground nesters such as snipe and curlew continue to struggle.  The current management measures include rush strimming, visitor access advice and predator control.  However it appears that whilst all these measure should continue they may not be enough.   To try and further help the birds, 3 new snipe scrapes have been created this month on Wildmoor which should provide open muddy areas amongst the rush where the snipe can feed.


7. Acid Grassland

blueflower

The condition of the botanically significant parched acid grassland (U1) found on the hillsides was assessed this spring in detail and a full report is available.  In summary, most (6/8) of the valleys surveyed, were in favourable condition. The exceptions were Cwmdale and Ashes Valley. The former fails only on having a species-poor sward, the latter only on too high a presence of Bracken.  Bracken control was carried out in Ashes in 2009, but the monitoring may have followed too soon to detect any impact (as the bracken litter takes several years to break down). 

This type of acid grassland is monitored on Long Mynd approx every 5 years by Churton Ecology.


8. Ponds

wildmoorpool

Significant mechanical clearance of vegetation (particularly bottle sedge) from Wildmoor Pool has just been completed.  Although bottle sedge is an uncommon plant and valued on the site, around a third of it requires removal every decade to prevent the pond from being lost to succession. Small scale hand clearance of vegetation has also been carried by volunteers out in several pools in the Wildmoor area to help maintain open water (an annual task). NT volunteer, Sue McLamb, is about to start an MSc project looking at the NT pond management program and its impact upon the dragonflies of the Wildmoor area. 
 
A dog died this summer after swimming in a Carding Mill Valley pond.  Vets attributed this to toxicity caused by blue-green algae, but Environment Agency tests failed to find any trace of the algae.  In future years we hope to work closely with EA in order to try and detect any signs of such algae.  In general the Long Mynd pools are nutrient poor so are low risk for such algal blooms. 


9. Non-native Invasive Plants

golfcoursepondgolfcoursepond2golfcoursepond3
Golf course pond – The on-going battle against New Zealand Pygmyweed has taken a big step forward. It is a very invasive non-native pond weed which smothers all other plant-life and is notoriously difficult to get rid off.  Fortunately it is only present in this single pond on Long Mynd.  The pond dried out this summer allowing NT staff and volunteers to chemically spray then remove the weed and line the pool with black plastic to try to prevent its re-growth.  The water inlet was diverted to keep future water levels low while the success of the treatment is being monitored.

Work was also carried by staff and volunteers on Castle Hill this spring to control the spread of the waterside plant Himalayan Balsam.  Contractors also treated a patch of Japanese Knotweed that is threatening the SSSI from Long Mynd House


10. Geological Sites

geologicalsite

Long Mynd has several geological sites that are designated SSSI for their scientific interest as well as many sites of local interest. While all the key (SSSI) sites were noted to be in ‘favourable’ condition, one of the other sites, Buxton Quarry, was reported by the council to be in a declining condition.

To hopefully avoid this happening again, local geologist Peter Toghill and Keith Hodgkiss have put together a list of key Long Mynd sites, and volunteers Frank an Frances Hay have offered to keep an eye on their condition. The Tuesday task force have recently worked on Buxton Quarry to significantly improve its condition.

11. Grayling Butterfly and Bilberry Bumblebee


graylingbutterflybilberrybee

Images David Williams

Grayling butterflies are one of the species monitored annually.  In the 1990’s they appeared to have been lost from the Long Mynd,  but made a dramatic comeback when the grazing levels were reduced in 1999.  This year saw the expansion of the butterfly population into new areas of the hill including Buxton quarry (Batch valley)

The rare Bilberry Bumblebee has been monitored each summer by NT volunteer since 2007. It continues to be present in good numbers and for the first time during the project a nest was found amongst the heather.  A PhD project (Exeter Uni) is also underway and hopes to determine whether the Long Mynd population crosses with that of Stiperstones.


12. Red grouse monitoring

grousemonitoring
We have now trialled a more detailed way of assessing the Red Grouse population by counting territorial males on spring evenings. Led by Leo Smith, it involved a large number of volunteers, and considerable organisation, but was very successful with all involved keen to repeat the project next spring.  The data correlated well with the dawn counts (reported on in the spring update), confirming many territories and adding to them. It concluded that there were around 58 pairs of grouse on the hill. The full report is imminent. 

This means that after 12 years of NT counting grouse at dawn in the middle of winter, we will now shift our efforts to supporting the spring evening counts.  Much more civilised!