It was bitterly cold this morning yet it didn’t put off the band of hardy volunteers who turned out to help the National Trust Wardens at Cullintraw, near Comber.
This site is a field adjacent to the northern shores of Strangford Lough. The soil is relatively low in nutrients and there are some interesting damp flushes throughout the field so there is great potential for increasing its biodiversity value. Our goal is to increase the numbers of wild flowers in the grassland and hope that it might attract some breeding waders in the summer.
However, we feel that there are too many rushes and we have been trying to reduce the amount of this plant. So over the last few years, we have grazed this field with traditional breeds of livestock such as Dexter and Galloway cattle and Konik ponies. These tough animals thrive on rough ground like this and their grazing will help to improve the species composition of the grassland. They will even nibble at the rushes when they are young and tender and they have been doing a great job at reducing them.
Earlier in the year, we cut the thickest clumps of rushes to encourage the cattle to eat the softer regrowth. Today, we were gathering the cut rushes up and removing them from the site.
As you can see, it was very icy and literally “biting cold”.
But we used the frozen conditions to our advantage because it allowed us to drive a quad and trailer over the hard ground which would normally be so wet and soft that we would have created muddy ruts. Today, we managed to collect the piles of rushes without doing any damage to the ground.
Hopefully, if we continue this management over the next few years, our efforts will result in a steady improvement at this site. We are looking forward to seeing the wild flowers and breeding birds in future summers.