The Problems of Wilden Marsh Island
The 16.5 acre Wilden Marsh island sits between the Worcester and Staffordshire canal and the River Stour, midway along Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. Designated an improving wetland, the area is home to rare flora.
Dredging of the River Stour and the removal of an historic weir during the 1970s, caused Wilden Marsh to dry out; many of its rare wetland flora was feared lost.
In 2010, two rock weirs were built in the Wilden Marsh section of the River Stour, to raise the upstream water level by 1.5 metres. The new weirs are there to help with rewetting Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve.
Much maintenance work has been carried out on the island in recent years, including the erection of boundary stock fencing, which has already been destroyed by vandals. The island is becoming the preserve of individuals with nefarious agendas. Recreation is NOT the primary purpose of Wilden Marsh or its island, it is a private nature reserve intended for the preservation of ever decreasing local fauna and rare flora. There are many more easily accessible nearby reserves open to the general public.
The aim is to include the island in the marsh grazing plan, but to do this we need the boundary fencing to remain secure. We also need a cattle bridge to link the island with the mainland.
Recent maintenance work has included a great deal of tree coppicing and flail mowing. The island is infested with Himalayan balsam every growing season. The most effective way of controlling this aggressively invasive 6-8 foot tall plant is to graze it. Grazing has dramatically reduced the Himalayan problem on the mainland marsh. I’m sure the balsam will return with a vengeance if grazing were to cease.
So what can we do? Will a new stock fence be an immediate invitation for vandals to strike again? It’s a difficult problem! If we can’t rely on the integrity of the perimeter stock fencing, we are not able the graze the island. If we are not able to graze the island, we won’t be able to deal effectively with the vast swaths of invasive Himalayan balsam choking the island every growing season. A high heavy gauge galvanised steel security fence is an effective but expensive solution and unlikely to attract funding. Perhaps a socially responsible organisation or a rich person reading this post will donate a proper security fence and bridge to solve the problems, but this is an unlikely scenario. I guess we will have to keep thinking.
Maybe someone will tell me why the island’s stock fence is a target for vandals. Would a gate solve the problem? The island ground conditions are generally hellish. If a person manages to stay clear of being sucked into one of the many mires or is able to navigate a course through the dense Himalayan balsam, the biting insects will surely attack them with a vengeance. In other words, the island does not appeal to your everyday person on a morning walk along the canal towpath.
The herons breeding in the island’s heronry are totally unfazed by the loud, raucous whine of chainsaws and the roaring slashing of the flail mover. These majestic birds are more interested in mating and keeping control of their nests.