This week, our volunteer group visited Mid Island, in Greyabbey Bay. Mid Island is partially wooded and has an old cottage (the cottage is not open to the public). On a bright day, the island is very picturesque and makes an interesting walk.
However, the conditions were not so appealing during our visit. It was raining, cold and very muddy. Round the back of the island, too much scrub has been growing and it has been taking over areas of grassland which should be rich with wildflowers, insects and other wildlife. The encroaching scrub has also reduced the access to the top field to a single, narrow strip and the cattle and farm machinery have turned this into a muddy quagmire.
So our task for the week was to cut some of this scrub back which will widen the path and provide additional access routes so the cattle can get around the island more easily and prevent them from poaching the ground. By reducing the size of the large blocks of scrub, we will also improve the floristic interest in the grassland.
As we cut the scrub, we burnt it on a couple of bonfires.
Lighting a fire on top of wet mud, while it is raining, is not the easiest of challenges. But we persevered and got there in the end. There is nothing better than a roaring fire to warm you up and we soon forgot about the freezing conditions.
We nearly got the job finished on Wednesday, but had to leave the island to avoid being stranded by the rising tide. Thursday morning was another cold, wet and windy day but a few of us decided to brave the elements and returned to Mid Island to finish it off. Amazingly, despite the continuous rain, there were still glowing embers at the fire site so we managed to get the fires going again and get the remainder of the cut material burnt and cleared away.
By the time we finished, we were all exhausted, wet through and very filthy.
Although this project may have seemed like a test of endurance, we actually enjoyed getting stuck in. It is always very satisfying to see the results of our hard work. Due to our efforts, the habitat will now improve and access around the island will be much easier. Knowing that we have made a positive difference makes it all worthwhile.
The National Trust allows free public access to Mid Island and the neighbouring South Island, so you are welcome to go for a visit and explore. At low tide, you can walk across the sand from the National Trust car park in Greyabbey. The sand is quite firm in this area, so there is no risk of getting stuck. But there are often deep puddles so Wellington boots are recommended. Visitors should be aware that cattle are often grazing these islands so we would ask you to close the gates, respect the livestock and keep your dogs under control.