May 1998                                       113


The time up to the beginning of April is always very busy. The winter months are when it is possible to carry out the Trusts most effective land management work. Stands of gorse and other invasive vegetation can be cut back and the land prepared ready for the native flora and heathland to regenerate. The main period for cutting is between September and March with March being used as a time to clear up the various sites. Cutting is not carried on into April so that birds are protected during the breeding season. However, there are very few birds which will use the gorse for breeding and areas covered by gorse tend to drive most species away. There are now very few skylarks left on Scilly and hopefully as the heathland recovers their numbers will increase.

It always creates a scar when cutting is first undertaken. Rather than burn all the wood generated, the Trust places it in piles for Islanders to take and use in their fires. Most of the usable material does find a home and by the end of the cutting season, there are few piles left to have to deal with. Within a fairly short time, the cutting scars are covered by new vegetation growth and look a great deal better. Up to recent times a system of controlled burning was employed to manage the open land. In many ways this would be the best method of control today and while there is a burnt scar, this, like the cut areas soon heals over. Sites such as Mount Todden, Innisidgen and Porth Hellick are already showing an excellent re- growth of flowers and are worth visiting. The work will encourage insect and bird activity
and will enhance the open areas which have suffered from the encroachment of gorse and bracken over the years.

With the help of the Duchy of Cornwall, several ditches around Porthloo and Rocky Hill are being cleaned out, this will improve the flow of water to the Lower Moors and this in turn will stop it becoming stagnant - it is important to encourage more insect life in the moors and this will almost certainly bring in more birds. The wet conditions on the path are being treated by building up and side trenching. The higher than average rainfall of the last few months has made some paths far wetter than normal. Because the water level is very high on the Higher Moors Trail, the restoration of the main path has been brought forward. Almost half the path has been resurfaced or is in the process of being raised and boarded. The beach end of the trail is still wet, but is passable with care. The hardcore and fine material for the work is coming from the Council tip and is all recycled. The Trust has had several volunteer groups assisting with the path work and these have included Venture Scouts from Harpenden, the British Trust for Nature Conservation and Duke of Edinburgh’s candidates working for their Gold Award.

Volunteers have also helped with beach cleaning and before Easter, all the beaches in the Trust lease on St Mary’s were checked. It was a great relief to find that there was very little Cita rubbish and we hope that problem is now behind us.

An area on the side of Peninnis has been carefully raked to remove the litter caused by many years of decaying bracken. This has made it possible for the less abundant English bluebells that had been completely hidden by the bracken to be seen again and for the bulbs to regenerate.

Andrew Gibson.

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