Flower power on nature reserve

Phil Reddell

A new project will bring to life the diversity of plants on a Lancashire nature reserve.

The Wet Grassland Project at Heysham Moss will also help to control and manage water levels and improve access for local people.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, supported by funding from Ørsted through their Walney Extension Community Fund, will be working to enhance the site with new hedges and wildflowers.

The project aims to enhance the floral diversity of the wet grassland habitat and help the Wildlife Trust to enhance the neighbouring raised bog, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Digger arriving to start bunding work at Heysham Moss nature reserve

Diggers arrive to start bunding work

North Lancashire Reserves Officer, Reuben Neville, said: “We have been managing the area of wet grassland at Heysham Moss since we bought the site in 2004. Since then, changes in the surrounding landscape and recent extremes in annual weather patterns have forced us to re-evaluate our priorities for the area.”

The reserve sits within the Morecambe Coast and Lune Estuary area and is surrounding by low lying pastoral landscape of essentially coastal grazing marsh to the east and Heysham village to the west. In the past the extensive areas of grazing marsh would have supported breeding waders and wintering wildfowl.

Agricultural intensification, notably land drainage and more intensive silage production has meant that breeding waders such as redshank and lapwing have now been lost from the local area. At the time the Trust bought Heysham Moss several pairs of lapwing were still recorded breeding in and around the reserve.

Skullcap growing at Heysham Moss nature reserve, owned by Lancashire Wildlife Trust

Skullcap. Photo by John Haddon

Reuben said: “More recently, developments locally have isolated the reserve which is now surrounded on three sides. With breeding waders or wintering wildfowl unlikely to ever return to the areas of wet grassland, our management priorities have switched to enhancing the botanical diversity. A number of uncommon species like sneezewort, greater birds-foot trefoil, skullcap and greater burnet are still present although these are now restricted and the area has become dominated by soft rush.

“Changing weather patterns, with very wet summers and relatively dry springs, have caused challenges for management and, in some years, we have been unable to put in place the desired cutting and grazing regimes. We need to put in the correct management regimes to stop the growth of less desirable species and benefit biodiversity on the reserve.”

This Wet Grassland Project aims to:

  • Put in place bunding (impermeable banks) and water control structures to improve our ability to manage the water levels in the grassland. This will also support the hydrology of the adjoining raised bog and wet woodland.
  • Relieve water logging caused by compaction by undertaking sub-soiling.
  • Open up existing ditches to facilitate water management and re-profile to enhance their value for biodiversity.
  • Improve the botanical diversity by plug-planting further wildflowers to boost the existing populations.
  • Elevate the existing footpath to improve access around the grassland.
  • Undertake hedge planting to screen the new developments adjoining the reserve.
  • Re-instate cutting and grazing regime to manage and enhance the grassland into the future.

Sub-soiling work has already been undertaken, while bunding and ditch work will start over the coming months. This will be followed by hedge planting and a programme of wildflower plug-planting.