Scrub is an important part in the mosaic of habitats on the Malverns but without management it can take over the more sensitive grassland areas that are home to scarce flora, fungi, birds and butterflies. Cattle and sheep can be found on the Hills and Commons all year round, conserving the open habitats by grazing and trampling scrub and young trees. However, sometimes they need a helping hand too.
Caradoc Consulting have been using a remote-controlled cutter on the steep slopes of the northern Hills this week to cut some of the dense stands of bracken and gorse. Creating open areas within the scrub allows the cattle and sheep the opportunity to graze these areas and improves access for visitors as can now be seen on the eastern slopes of Sugarloaf Hill. This remote-controlled tool is very efficient and perfectly suited to the steep slopes of the Malverns.
This is just one of the ways by which bracken and scrub are managed on the Hills and Commons. A horse-drawn team visited the Hills in August to roll dense stands of bracken and weaken the vigorous plant. Rolling the bracken damages it and causes the plant releases a chemical to protect itself. Frequent crushing or damage over time gradually weakens the bracken, breaks up the dense stands and provides space and light for other species to grow.
This horse-drawn team has a lower environmental impact than fuel-powered methods and also has a lighter footprint on the ground. They can also reach areas where the tractor can't, for example steeper slopes or wetter ground. This method doesn't work for dense stands of gorse and for these tougher areas, the remote-controlled cutter has been deployed.