Imagine having our very own wetlands in Stoke Park
THERE is always a debate that goes on as to whether or not to allow certain areas within a park to become scrub, either with invasive brambles or hawthorn. Or allowing tree saplings to grow on to become secondary woodland.
Some say that it's nature's way and should be left alone.
There are two sides to this debate. One is that by allowing things to grow untouched creates amazing habitats for wild life.
If you take Purdown as an example, only 20 years ago it was a barren landscape with very little bird life there. It's now all covered in hawthorn shrubs and brambles and is a magnet for small birds such as whitethroats, linnets and summer visiting species.
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It offers a plentiful supply of food from the flowers in spring as the insects feed off the pollen – and gives protection from predators, too.
Then there's the other side of the debate by allowing it to grow unchecked,.Will it change the landscape by covering over old pathways and extend into areas that were once historical sites? Here at Stoke Park, between two areas of woodland, tree saplings have been allowed to grow on to form what's called secondary woodland. It' s formed a wildlife highway for deer that pass through and allows them to stay under cover and out of the way of dogs and people in general.
As with humans, animals become accustomed to taking certain routes. I call them animal motorways. So a balance between what should be left and cut back is a difficult choice as we don't want to disturb or remove too much habitat. But by the same token we don't want to lose historical features, either. So the scrub must be removed to preserve history in certain identified areas, but locations such as the dew pond by Duchess Lake. That was put there to take the road water from the nearby Stoke Park housing estate and has been partially planted with reeds to filter fuel pollutants. It is now a regular feeding site for snipe and I have seen woodcock there. A local wildlife photographer also once took an early morning photograph of a muntjak deer passing through.
So all these issues are part of the debate that ecologists and specialists will be looking into in the near future. A great suggestion many people have asked for is the reed beds to be extended and to build a bird hide for schools to visit. I'm definitely in favour of that idea. Imagine having our very own wetlands in Stoke Park. It would be like having Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust on our doorstep.
Steve England is an (RHS) horticulturist, amateur naturalist and chairman of the Stoke Park steering group.