Middle Marsh has been grazed pretty hard throughout last autumn and winter. Middle Wood, a long term non-intervention compartment until a year ago, is infested with Himalayan balsam. It will take a good few years of hard grazing to significantly reduce the balsam’s stranglehold on Middle Wood’s flora. The cattle have trampled and broken up a thick layer of bleached and dried balsam stalks and brittle dried fern fronds from last years crops, pushing it deep into the soft boggy soil. The Middle Wood and the Flooded Wood Pasture flora now appear to be responding well to the cattle’s presence, from what I have seen this morning. Marsh marigolds, flag irises, ferns and bluebells, and many other plants are pushing steadily through the wood floor, as shown in the video. I have moved the cattle into North Pasture to allow the Middle Marsh flora to grow and bloom without hindrance. Unfortunately, the Himalayan balsam will also benefit initially from the ground conditioning carried out by the marsh cattle. I will move the cattle back in as early as possible later in the year, around mid-August, if all goes well before the Himalayan balsam can shed its seeds. I will review progress year on year.
Over the past ten years, I have seen grazing reduce Himalayan balsam throughout the rest of the reserve to minimal levels, but it grows profusely outside the boundary fencing. If we were to cease grazing, Himalayan balsam would reinfest the pastures with a vengeance.