Gugh to get the Star Treatment!

Friday 8th January 2016

Bar from Gugh looking across Porth Conger ~ ©  BareFoot PhotographerBar from Gugh looking across Porth Conger ~ © BareFoot Photographer

This coming week sees our Ranger Team leaving St Mary's and starting a tour of the Off-Islands in order to complete various pieces of work prior to the start of spring migration, nesting and visitor season. Their first port of call in this island-hopping schedule will be Gugh. To find out exactly what they'll be up to read on....

Gugh used to be the home for three rare plant species Shore Dock, first discovered in 1893, still extant in the 1960s but now extinct; Small Adder's-tongue which sadly has not been seen since at least the mid-1980s and Four-Leaved Allseed which was recorded in 1939 and 1940; although it may be too late for species such as this, due to climate change, it is important that other native species are supported and encouraged where possible.

The history of Scilly's vegetation is not particularly well documented but it is fairly well reported that the hedges and shelter belts, which we are familiar with today, are relatively recent in terms of Scilly's history.  Evergreens, such as Pittosporum (Crassifolium) and Coprosma (Repens) both native to New Zealand, have been introduced during the last one-two hundred or so years; prior to this the only protection from wind was in the form of stone walls or hedges.   

These evergreens have flourished in Scilly, as a result of our mild climates and wildlife.  With frost rarely occurring and the seeds being spread by mammals and birds the result is these trees spreading and popping up in many unexpected places; where once they were confined to the inhabited and worked Islands they are now also found on many of the uninhabited Islands.  

The trees are quick growing (which is the main reason why they were introduced) and as such they are an invasive species, spreading quickly across the grasslands and heathlands and blocking out light for the smaller plant species, causing them to fail to thrive or vanish completely.

So, what's happening?

Next week the Ranger Team embark on a piece of work on Gugh in order to manage the spread of invasive non-native Pittosporum; restoring and maintaining habitat in this especially beautiful corner of Scilly.

Their first visit will focus on the neck between Bar/The Bite and DropNose Porth where Pittosporum will be cut, brash burnt and stumps treated to prevent re-growth.  Scattered groups of trees and existing hedgerow boundaries will be left and all large pieces of wood will be stacked as habitat piles.  

Head Ranger, Darren Mason, explains that the aim of this work is to stop any further encroachment by the trees onto the grassland and heathland of Gugh.  

The Rangers will work to create a mosaic of different grassland vegetation heights, with delicate species such as Orange Bird's Foot and Clovers in the short turf areas and the nationally scarce Balm-leaved Figwort and Babington Leek in the longer areas. The boundary between the short and tall vegetation creates shelter and areas of different temperature which is excellent for insects.

The newly cleared areas will be cut a further three times during 2016 preventing further Pittosporum seed generation ; these cuts will coincide with path clearances which are scheduled to take place throughout the year.

Scattered groups of trees and existing hedgerow boundaries will be left and all large pieces of wood will be stacked as habitat piles.

A second visit is planned in February 2016 to complete additional Pittosporum removal in specific areas around DropNose Porth as well as clearances around archaeolgical sites on the island.  

Not only will this hopefully enrich locals and visitors’ experiences whilst visiting Gugh, making it easier to walk around and see the ancient sites, but it will also allow the smaller plants and vegetation to grow and flourish in their new found freedom and light and in turn encourage other species.

If you see our Team out working do say “hello” but please take care as they may not hear you approaching if they are using machinery.  Why not stop and have a chat with them and find out a bit more about the work that they are doing? 

Please accept our apologies for any disturbance or inconvenience this work may cause but we believe that it’s not only the flora and fauna that will benefit from it but locals and visitors alike

If you have any queries or concerns please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss them either via our FaceBook Page, give us a ring on 01720 422153 or why not drop in to the office?  

Tagged with: Events & Shows, Gugh, Land Management, Off-Island, Pittosporum, Ranger Team, St Agnes