Anyone working on a rewilding or naturalisation project now has plenty of examples and information to draw on. The first guidance is simply to do the exact opposite of what the majority of our landowners and governors are doing currently. They impoverish the soils, reduce complex ecosystems to sad remnants and leave a barren wasteland. We need to keep organic matter on the land and fill the environment with plants and varieties of substrate and structure. “Build it and they will come”.
The site is comprised of two fields, the east field and west field which are to be treated in different ways. The west field will be turned into a complex of raised bank hedgerows, ditches and wildflower meadows with occasional small ponds. The east field will be transformed into a wetland consisting of pools, scrapes, ditches and meres. See drawings in the gallery below.
Find out more about how the two Roborough fields will be treated.
Here, a complex wetland system can be created. Because the land slopes and the soil is heavy clay, a very small amount of water can be spilled down the slope from one pool to the next to maintain a huge variety of small pools and ponds. Ditches will add another habitat type and in general aquatic plants will be allowed to colonise naturally.
There is scope for about 40 different water bodies. Shallow water (50-200mm deep) is the most valuable in terms of habitat so there will be lots of that, but other key elements will be variety and just the sheer number of pools. Dragonflies, damselflies and a myriad other invertebrates will come in, not to mention amphibians and predators like otters and heron. Refuges of wood and stone both in and out of the water will provide hibernating spaces and cover too. The banks will be seeded with a native wildflower mix suited to the heavy clay. The East Field will become aquatic habitat heaven!
One of the most notable losses in our agricultural landscape is flower. Modern agriculture decimates floral diversity and abundance. We aim to transform the West Field into a floral haven – Campis Florum (fields of flowers.)
The basic methodology is to remove the grasses that have been sown for sheep fodder by stripping off the turf. This will then be used to create banks which will be planted as hedgerows. The cut ground can then be sown with a variety of native, wildflower meadow mixes. This will produce small, stable, floral rich meadows sitting between hedge banks full of hazel, hawthorn, willow and bramble. Ditches can also be cut to connect one or two small pools.
There will also be a few large field trees and as much habitat structure as we can cram in – piles of deadwood and stone, and corners of native scrub. Once established, the field will provide a home for huge numbers of butterflies, bees and insects. Herbivores, like rabbits, voles and roe deer, will create diversity and dormice, barn owls and smaller birds will benefit from nesting and hibernating boxes. Natural colonisation will also be encouraged and the local populations of plants and animals will flood into the new habitat.