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National Park Wardens are bale-ing out pollinators

South Warden Manager Tim Jones explains how his team’s conservation work improves biodiversity for pollinators and how you could also benefit…

There are eight Wardens (including me) covering the south of the National Park, which stretches from the Angle Peninsula to Amroth and also includes the land around the Daugleddau Estuary.

The aim of most of our conservation work is to remove nutrients from sites, which results in less biomass but more biodiversity, with the end result being a more traditional hay meadow. The nutrients are then contained in bales or end up in the animals we use to graze the land.

Bales outside Llanion Park
​Bales outside the National Park Authority's Llanion Park headquarters.

This works in the opposite way to farmers, who add nutrients so they can harvest and store more crop, allowing them to feed stock during the winter months. This encourages more vigorous plants to out-compete others and results in more biomass but less biodiversity.

Plants are at the bottom of most terrestrial food chains, so our management creates habitats for insect pollinators and then everything further up from once-common sky larks to sparrow hawks.

The size and terrain of the areas we manage are usually unsuitable for modern farm machinery.  Those factors together with others such as the vegetation and/or the weather mean we can’t make good hay.

Due to economics, many sections of coastal slope are no longer intensively farmed. The Park Authority has reintroduced coastal grazing, bracken bruising and controlled burning in several places – again with the aim to improve biodiversity. A mosaic of different species in different areas at different heights is far better environmentally than a monoculture of blackthorn!

The cutting at Castlemartin has particular benefit for many species of wild bees. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust funded a mower and helped with the management plan there.

The pedestrian and/or compact tractor equipment we use is ideal for the sites we manage. The small bales are ideal for small holdings. Some of the ranker vegetation is suitable for bedding, which saves on straw costs.

We produce about 800 small bales annually, spread out over 16 sites and around 30 separate small patches of grass. Major sites include parts of Castlemartin Range, the grounds of the Authority headquarters at Llanion, Carew Castle and Skrinkle.

All eight members of the South Warden Team are involved to some degree, but most of the tractor driving is completed by two of us while the others are busy cutting the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, inland paths and other sites all at the same time!

Although it can be hard, hot work the wardens enjoy the conservation work, especially seeing the ongoing and positive results of their work.

The Authority will have small bales available at Llanion and Carew Castle in August with a charge of just £2 per bale for the better quality hay. The ranker vegetation at Skrinkle will be available for free. This will be cut, spread and rowed ready for baling by the collector but may be baled in the event of bad weather. Buyer collects.

To arrange collection or for more information contact Tim Jones on 07866 771133. 

National Park Warden Blog
Published 17/08/2017


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