Greywell Fen

Works at Greywell Fen

If you have walked up to Greywell Mill recently, you may have wondered what is happening on the area between the Broadwater and The Moors Nature Reserve (the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s land). The simple answer is fen restoration.

The area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  It was designated for its fen habitat and associated flora including marsh helleborine, marsh valerian and marsh fern.  Once, grazing and coppicing would keep it open.  However, in recent years it has become overgrown and dominated by alder, thus reducing its biodiversity.  The work will enable the fen to return to “favourable condition”.  As Spring progresses, we hope to see it come alive with wildflowers.

Defra accepted the whole Greywell Hill Estate land into its Higher Tier Stewardship Scheme at the start of 2020.  This is a bureaucratic environmental land management scheme for farms and forestry.  It includes incentives to carry out major works, which would not otherwise be considered by landowners.  Natural England’s officer is keen that the Fen is restored.  Especially as the Wildlife Trust has undertaken similar work on the adjacent land several years ago.   Alaska Ecological Contracting, the same contractors as used by the Trust, are carrying out the works and the Trust’s local warden is overseeing it.

The contractor is felling all the alder and poplar.  These will be moved off site when ground conditions allow.  The end use of the timber will probably be for biomass production and it will be processed locally if possible, to minimise the haulage.  Wetlands are extremely efficient at carbon sequestration.  We believe that the work should have a positive impact on water levels in the River Whitewater and help to prevent the drying out of fen habitat which would otherwise be a cause for concern.

The contractors will clear the site completely.  The site will revert to grass and reeds and will be lightly grazed to control the return of alders.  The Wildlife Trust will help to manage the site.

Published with the kind permission of James Malmesbury

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