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Short Term Compromise For Long Term Gain

Posted: Friday 18th September 2015 by The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust

Grazing Interpretation PanelGrazing Interpretation Panel

Restoring Scilly’s Landscapes

Our primary aim when managing land is to create as many different habitats as possible. This creates diversity and provides places for insects, plants and birds to thrive. More types of plants = more types of wildlife.

Our headlands have gradually become overrun with dominant plants such as bracken, bramble and gorse. These species end up covering the ground with a blanket, blocking out the light and preventing many other species of plant from growing. The Trust is currently “restoring” the headlands which involve two different management techniques. Management can often look quite drastic and very different, but only for a limited amount of time (things can look worse, before they look better, short term compromise for long term gain).

Normandy/Porth Hellick Downs following recent work

Remember, the countryside is not “tidy”; it is not like a garden lawn which is mown in straight lines or a flower bed that has defined edges. The work that is carried out is also often on a large scale.


Mechanical cutting

Dominant plants such as bracken, bramble and gorse are cut down with tractors and brush-cutters. Normandy/Porth Hellick Downs ~ newly emerged flowers following recent work It is important that these species are “hit hard” to weaken their growth, allow sunlight in and provide space to enable other, smaller and more delicate plants to grow.

The best time to cut and weaken bracken is between June and August when it is in full growth; we might cut the same area twice to really knock it back. Over time, as the bracken is weakened less cutting should be required.

More woody invasive species such as gorse and pittisporum are cut down by either tractor and flail or chainsaw and more usually in the autumn and winter. We might have bonfires to remove the cut debris, or it may be left to rot or blow away; this depends on where the site is and it’s size.



Grazing with cattle and/or ponies

Grazing animals work as living “lawn mowers”, keeping low growing vegetation short and giving wild flowers access to light.

Their hooves create bare patches and push plant seeds in the soil encouraging flowers such as heather to regenerate. Their dung also provides food for beetles and other insects, which in turn provide food for birds.

Many of the dominant plants such as bracken are unpalatable to grazing animals so a mixture of grazing and mechanical cutting is required.



This short video, created by one of volunteers, explains a little more about the work that the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust does. We hope that you like it! :D 

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