Scrub Clearing on Braunton Burrows

Braunton Burrows facebook site published the following:

It’s that time of year down on the Burrows when scrub clearing works are taking place. Christie Estates works with Natural England to agree areas that are in need of management. They are carried out in the Autumn to avoid disturbing nesting birds.

This year the most intensive works are taking place in Zone 1, on the boundary of the golf course. Regular walkers in this area will be aware of how dense the scrub has grown in this area over the past 10 years through lack of management. Clearance work in this section of the Burrows will open up the ground so that it can then be grazed by livestock (which will keep the scrub levels down) to encourage the dune turf and reduce the need for further mechanical scrape work.

The principal plant being targeted is Sea Buckthorn, with its distinctive orange berries on show at this time of year. This plant was originally introduced in the 1950s to stabilise the sand, but it is a non-native invasive species (while common in some coastal areas in the southeast of the UK, it was specifically introduced here in the southwest). Its prolific spread crowds out the growth of smaller plants and flowers for which the Burrows is internationally renowned, as reflected in its UNESCO Biosophere and Site of Scientific Interest status.

Said to be the favourite food of Pegasus, the winged horse from Greek mythology, Sea Buckthorn berries are also a tasty treat for local birds, the seeds then ‘deposited’ elsewhere on the Burrows where new plants inevitably grow.

After the scrub has been scraped it is piled up ready for burning and the smoke of these fires is also a feature of this time of year. As always, coming into Autumn, these works can appear to be rather excessive and indiscriminate, but they do follow a detailed plan. The ugly appearance is only temporary and as early as next summer the cleared areas will be looking all the better for the works as new growth will see flowers and small plants prosper once more on these spots.

So while this part of the picture isn’t too easy on the eye, the whole picture of conservation on the Burrows and the benefits it will bring for the wildlife is much more rosy.

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