The last of the cattle departed in mid-November bringing another grazing season to a definitive close. For many who access the riverside on a daily basis it is almost inconceivable that these pastures have a grazing record stretching back to the late twelfth century and yet another season has just been added.
Without any pause it was straight on with the winter work programme. Ditch clearance work or ‘slubbing out’ forms part of this winter’s programme. It is very important to keep areas of open water in the ditches by reducing silt and associated vegetation otherwise these key features in the landscape would be lost and their wildlife value would reduce radically
The key to carrying out the work is knowing where special plants grow in order to retain them otherwise they can be inadvertently removed roots and all. This is where ‘in house’ work is far preferable to external contractors who, with the best will in the world, cannot be expected to know what a nationally scarce species such as tubular water dropwort looks like. Caring for these areas in a sympathetic manner has led to the spread of the above plant along the length of most of the watercourses so that the Sudbury’s Common Lands are now probably the best site for the species in Suffolk, if not nationally.
It is now three years since ditching work was carried out so there was more to do this season that would normally be carried out. It is not only the ditches that require attention but the various ponds too. Right across the country neglected ponds are crying out for restoration which would encourage a return of wildlife.
Next summer, not only will the various plants have new areas to colonise but our significant range of damsel and dragonfly species will have large areas of open water to patrol over, feed, defend, and lay eggs. As one of the best areas in the county for these beautiful insects it is important that the charity continues to manage its waterways with these fascinating creatures in mind and what suits them will also be beneficial to a range of other creatures.