Once you pop, you just can't stop!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 29 January 2018 14:48

Yesterday was the first meeting of the Ditchling Beacon Conservation Super Squad. A conservation task force aimed at tackling this difficult site with it's seemingly inaccessible steep slopes and back-breaking scrub removal; it's not for the fainthearted. We started gently on the slope above though and had a great day. We used the new Tree Poppers for pulling up the invasive Wall Cotoneaster that has invaded large areas of the quarry (along with smaller amounts of native Hawthorn and Wayfaring-tree) and it was really successful. We covered pretty much the whole of the slope above and the plateau beyond that which will make way for all sorts of chalk-grassland plants, bryophytes and invertebrates. I personally loved getting my hands dirty again after all these years and it was a great feeling doing it as a volunteer.

By the end of the day, the slope looked great! I can't wait to see this in the summer. The Tree Poppers are so much better than just cutting and coppicing the scrub as they pull up the whole plant roots and all. They also create some bare ground in the process. The drawback is it takes much longer and they are quite hard work on the slopes. Manageable though.

What was a real surprise (considering we only surveyed it last year) was that Carole Mortimer found an insect new to the site. This is the Nb Agonopterix pallorella which is restricted to the eastern Downs and feeds on Knapweed. As we mention all species with conservation status in the management plans and Ditchling is just about to be submitted, this moth just scrapes it into the plan! It's the 181st moth we have recorded at Ditchling and the 1233rd species over all. I really like being able to tie the management together with some worthwhile species recording as we go, it really completes the circle.

Next month we will try some larger scrub and maybe put some spuds on the fire. If you're interested, please message me on graemelyons@sussexwt.org.uk. It's always on the last Sunday of the month so the next one will be 25th February.

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