News, Ram Meadow

Second year of multi-year habitat management in Ram Meadow

In the autumn of 2020 BWMG volunteers began the first year of our multi-year habitat management for the open water scrape in Ram Meadow. The objective is to open up a new part of this water habitat each year to light and air and to reduce the impact of trees and reeds drying-out the water. Upon starting there was only 15% open water and the habitat was less attractive for reed and sedge warblers, water vole and dragonfly & damselfly species, all of which have been recorded there in the past.

Through the autumn of 2021 we continued with our second year of the programme agreed with West Suffolk Council, running four more volunteer events. The work began by coppicing willow which both blocks light from the scrape and also hides the habitat from the public’s view along the adjacent footbath. Over 2 half days we created a large pile of some 150m3 of cut willow branches. The plan is for this to be converted into woodchip to be laid along the Ram Meadow paths.

Over a further 2 half days volunteers with in-water training then went into the scrape and pulled a section of great reedmace (bullrushes) by hand. These heavy reeds up to 2m tall were then floated to the water’s edge, loaded onto a wheelbarrow and left in habitat piles on the side. This was different to the first year when we pulled mainly branched bur reed and we noticed that this water has now been colonised by hornwort, a native oxygenating plant. The result was to open up a new sector of open water meeting up with the area opened up last year.

Other volunteers were busy managing poplar coppicing and laying out wood-chipped poplar from the first year’s activity onto the public footpaths.

Many people in Bury St Edmunds have never ventured beyond the football ground into the wildlife site area behind. The site used to be the main holding meadows for livestock going to market but was passed onto the local council in 1996 after the Tesco development.

The site is part of the river Lark floodplain consisting of low-lying meadow with a network of drainage ditches but the silting up of the ditches and the drying out of the scrape through willow and bur-reed have combined to threaten the site’s habitats.

Work Party 4: Continue reedmace pull

BWMG is therefore pleased to be taking on conservation activities with the aim of creating and maintaining more favourable habitats for flora and fauna over all of Ram Meadow. The removal of these trees and reeds (along with excess hemlock and nettles) makes room to increase those plants which are more likely to support our native insects, birds and bats. We’re proud of being able to make a big difference already after our first two years of work and we look forward to seeing how nature responds.

Completion of Work Party 4: scrape opened up