Each Friday morning for the past few weeks the peace at Carmel has been interrupted by a pair of two stroke petrol engines. A duet in stereo by a brush cutter and a chainsaw. Though not melodic by any stretch of the imagination they have given gutsy performances and there is a certain harmony to the counterpoints of conservation and public access work they are involved with. To the left a group of students from Gelli Aur agricultural college have been using a chainsaw to remove small trees and scrub that had taken over one of the woodland glades. To the right a group of volunteers on a Communities and Nature or CaN programme used a brush cutter to extend the reserve’s network of trails.
Due to an oversight back in 1999 when the Carmel Reserve was designated, about a third of a hectare of woodland and glade was fenced out. Since then no livestock has been able to graze this part of the reserve and inevitably the result has been that scrub has encroached across the glade and bramble has spread across the woodland floor. Both are developments that have adversely affected the grassland and woodland ground floras. The students addressing this situation are all studying for a BTec Extended Diploma in Countryside Management and undertaking practical conservation activities forms part of their course. As well as clearing the glade they are in the process of re-positioning the fence so that it follows the actual boundary of the reserve. This will mean that cattle will also be able to enter the previously excluded woodland and by browsing and trampling prevent the bramble from dominating.
Working half a kilometre away on the other side of the reserve have been the CaN volunteers whose programme is managed by British Trust for Conservation Volunteers Cymru, another partner organisation in The Grasslands Trust’s work at Carmel. They have been busy opening up a new trail around a part of the reserve that visitors have previously not had access to. This area used to consist of a mix of grassland and dry heath but once again the lack of grazing has meant that these habitats have shrunk and in this particular case bracken has been the one to take advantage. The Grasslands Trust has already begun to reduce the dominance of this plant and the five hundred meters of new trail will enable visitors to see close-up the changes to the flora that happen in this area.
Charli Evans, Community and Volunteering Officer