CD#23 – Encouraging Biodiversity in the Woodlands

Rhododendron clearance near the moat
Rhododendron clearance near the moat

During the Winter, the Grounds Team, led by Guy Lucas, Head of Grounds, will be continuing their programme of improving the health, resilience and biodiversity of the woodlands, working alongside English Woodlands Forestry in an advisory role. Guy explains here what the programme entails.

The team’s main initiative this year is to remove much of the rhododendron from the woodland and moat area due to the harmful impact it has. Guy notes, ‘As a non-native and invasive species, it is capable of dominating and suppressing native flora and fauna leaving a lasting negative effect on areas, which can take years to recover. As well as playing host to Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae, an infectious pathogen killing many of our native trees, rhododendron also produces a form of growth inhibiter which is secreted into the soil from the leaves, flowers and bark, leaving the ground beneath bare and toxic. Although it does produce an attractive flower, the lasting negative effects of this species far outweigh the good and will drastically impact the wildlife at the Castle if not dealt with.’

Unfortunately, for a brief period this work may seem harmful and unattractive but by intervening now the team are confident they can deal with the problem before it becomes unmanageable and irreparable, and intend restoring the woodland to a healthy environment for trees, flowers and wildlife to inhabit.

Map detailing the Grounds plan
Map detailing the Grounds plan

The map explains the work taking place in detail. In November this year rhododendron on the eastern side of the woodland (yellow area) was sprayed with a herbicide. Much of the rhododendron around the moat area (pink area) will also be cut and treated to open up the moat walk. At the same time, the team will cut the sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) in the blue area. This is to allow for easier access for the next stage of works the following year and to continue the age-old rotational cutting technique of coppicing. In Winter 2018 the team will cut the large ‘wall’ of rhododendron from the woodland (orange area) and then treat the stumps and regrowth with a herbicide application to prevent regrowth.

Finally, the area shown in dark green will form part of our parkland creation/restoration. As much of the Herstmonceux Castle estate was converted for agriculture, this area is one of the last remaining fragments historically recorded as deer park. Due to commercial forestry planting and some experimental planting the parkland has lost its way through the years. By removing of some of the non-native and prolific tree species we hope to return this area to a floristically rich, diverse, historic parkland once again.

So, that’s the plan. Over the next few years you will see fewer rhododendron, temporary bareness, but in time, and with the help of patience and nature, you will witness new vistas opening up, greater diversity in flora and fauna, and an overall healthier estate.

If you have any questions about the work the Grounds Team are doing, please feel free to contact Guy on estate@bisc.queensu.ac.uk.

»Laying it bare since January 2017«