Report on the Core Area from January 16th to April 3rd 2006

Report on the Core Area from January 16th to April 3rd 2006

Management Activities 

Habitat Management activities ceased on March 31st the official start of the bird nesting season.

Scrub – The smaller scale clearance of invasive scrub and small trees using chain saws and hand tools to maintain and create sheltered glades and clearings, continued throughout the winter and early spring, benefiting many different areas. The contribution of local volunteers has been extremely valuable in enabling this work to take place. Large scale scrub clearance using heavy machinery started on Jan 12th took place over 8 weeks. In the southern section of the Training Area scrub was excavated, the material including the rootstocks was burnt and the ash residue buried under sand. Bramble and privet were found to be the most time consuming species to remove compared with the larger species such as sallow, hawthorn and birch. After c50% of Aspen Wood was cleared work took place around the inland section of the boardwalk following northwards across Thyme Plain, around the WWII dummy landing craft and within the loop of D Lane. In the latter area c95% of the dense scrub cover has been removed. In the northern part of the TA the scrub was thoroughly mashed by a heavy duty flail, the subsequent brash picked up and taken off site, where it awaits shredding before being composted. An area of Beach Head Slack in the north west corner of the Training Area is the only site in England where the 3 species of gentian: spring, dune and autumn grow. Here invasive scrub, mainly alder, was flailed and the rootstocks dug out, which, together with the spoil, was removed from the site for composting

Herb-rich grassland – Approx 40 ha of dune grassland in the northern part of the Training Area plus the grazed areas to the north and east have been mown, some of the cut material was picked up and removed from the site.

Re-establishing wet slacks. – An area of c1ha has been excavated to lower the level in a slack south of Sandy Lane car park, a former site for water germander until the drier, overgrown conditions resulted in its demise by 2004. A substantial part of this slack is now flooded.

Grazing – All grazing stock were removed from the Burrows in mid March. 

Public reaction to the management – There was little adverse reaction to the scrub clearance and excavation work this year except from the same persistent 3 protesters (one of whom, for the fourth year running, was abusive to a contractor) who still find it hard to accept the conservation necessity of the work. Many of the locals have come up and expressed their appreciation of our efforts to conserve the special flora and keep the dunes open which helps them enjoy the site. Permanent metal boards are being produced in conjunction with Christies, MoD and English Nature explaining the need for the habitat management works. These will be erected in 4 locations, close to where major work has been recently carried out.

Rare Species

Petalwort is colonising and thriving in the scrape created in Broadsands. The completed report on last summer's survey of Water Germander has been submitted to English Nature. Its results are encouraging showing a significant increase in populations as a result of the excavating and mowing of many of the sites. 

Research and Monitoring

The recording of monthly rainfall and water table readings has continued. The total rainfall between January 1st 2006 and March 31st was 141.5mm. This was below average resulting in no winter flooding of the slacks. The regular rabbit counts show that populations have remained fairly constant since their peak in 2004. This spring I have restarted night time newt counts in some of the ponds, concentrating on the Great Crested newt: maximum count so far of 21. Both these activities involve volunteer help and prove popular. 

Undesirable Activities/Anti-social behaviour

Dog fouling is becoming an increasing nuisance. Apart from being generally unpleasant and a potential health hazard it is locally having an adverse affect on the flora that is dependent on the nutrient poor sand by over enriching it. Discarded bagged up dog faeces continues to be a problem with some thrown in the bushes, some dumped on paths and some inside other litter on the beach.

Vandalism incidents have increased recently with 4 portaloos being burnt to the ground, the theft of contractors red diesel, gates have been battered, padlocks superglued and chains cut with boltcroppers. Flytipping has occurred in Sandy Lane car park.

Beach litter has greatly increased during the last week with large quantities being washed up by the high tides and driven into the foredunes by strong onshore westerly winds.


A preliminary application in the form of 'an expression of interest' has been submitted to the AONB's Sustainable Development Fund for much needed new interpretation panels in the 3 main car parks. Braunton Countryside Centre, the main venue that houses and displays our interpretive material on Braunton Burrows opens on April 10th for the season. A short presentation was given to update Braunton Parish Council on management works and MoD training on the Burrows. I am involved in the new Braunton Parish Map project as the Burrows covers c30% of the total area of the Parish. Illustrated talks on the ecology and management of the Burrows have been given to 4 different groups – Combe Martin Conservation Society, North Devon branch of the British Naturalists Association, Morchard Bishop Horticultural Soc. and Christchurch Ladies’ group

Biosphere Activities/Education

The programme of guided walks and other events for this coming season starts with a beach clean on May 7th for which volunteers will be most welcome. Another 'expression of interest' application has been made to the AONB's SDF to enable new updated editions of the Horsey and Crow Point self-guided trail booklets to be produced. 24 Students from Godolphin School were taken on a guided walk on the Burrows.

WWII History

Part of an unusual WWII device known as 'carrot' was discovered in Broadsands dunes during scrub excavation. This device was a prototype – a frame clamped on the sides of a tank extending in front of the machine where 4 steel wheels carried it with a bracket on its front to carry an explosive charge that could be dropped on an obstacle.

J M Breeds 3.4.06