Why are you cutting down the marsh trees?

Sunrise: 05.20 Sunset: 08.52

Hover-fly.

Hover-fly.

Why are you cutting down the marsh trees?

It’s understandable that this question is soon on people’s lips when they see large areas of trees disappearing. Increasingly, these days, we expect plausible answers to our questions. Nature should be left to its own devices, is a common retort from those that have not yet considered the relevance, practicality or cost of maintaining trees in an urban setting, let alone how trees are to earn their keep on a marshy nature reserve. Land is at a premium; putting it to profitable use in a balanced and sustainable way is a challenge on several fronts. Industrial and suburban pressures threaten the very existence of the rare treasures eking out a protected living on Wilden Marsh. It is all too easy to give into the relentless business and residential pressures and demands.

Many trees have been removed over the last few years, and more are to go before completion of the current 20 year rolling planned maintenance cycle. The first stage of taking out the Withy Wood has created a bare flooded patch that is not easily ignored. My short answer to the question is: too many trees rob the reserve of vital water, nutrients and sunlight. A full answer is beyond the scope of this blog post, and I am not sure that I would be able to do the subject justice anyway. Suffice to say that Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve, as its name suggests, is a marsh and not a wood or forest. Specialised marsh flora has particular requirements without which they are not able to flourish. Furthermore, we have to make sure that our four-legged conservators, the cattle, are able to move around freely.

People get used to seeing stands of trees on fixed horizons, and some believe the landscape has always been as it appears today. The likelihood is that the marsh has forever been in a state of constant flux. In 1945 only a handful of trees grew on and around Wilden Marsh, and not one single tree of the withy wood existed 10 years ago.

The marsh has been grazed and farmed for many hundreds of years. Since the Stone Age, local settlements have made good use of valuable natural resources along the lower Stour valley.

Without aggressive and sensitive management, and regular planned maintenance scheduling, Wilden Marsh would quickly degrade to thick and impenetrable forest; evidence of this is seen there now. Indigenous flora will be lost.  Most of its resident animals would run for the hills, as happens during the growing season when vegetation height exceeds two metres. Trees grow very quickly down on the marsh.

The fresh willow timber used to build a living otter holt earlier this year, has already rooted and budded – even the roof frame. The structure is TRULY living; all that is needed now is an otter to take up residence. There has been significant activity within the holt, but I am not yet able to confirm that it is otter-related.

The flagship reserve at Wilden, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, is a prime example of ancient and once abundant marshland that is fast disappearing from the county and the country as a whole, deserves preservation.

Wilden Marsh and Worcestershire Wildlife Trust are always in need of resources, sometimes large resources, in the form of new members and their membership fees, grants and donations to fund capital projects and general running costs. Volunteers are essential for carrying out vital maintenance and improvement tasks, such as the removal of small trees and bushes, implementing small-scale ecology projects, fencing repairs, and generally helping to keep the marsh alive and thriving.

The details are here if you would like to volunteer on Widen Marsh:   https://thewildenmarshblog.com/2013/10/15/whats-volunteering-all-about/

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