Ash dieback and woodland management at Marden Park
Marden Park is set on the narrow plateau and slopes of the North Downs in East Surrey, close to the village of Woldingham. The 67.8 hectare site is a mix of ancient and secondary wood with pockets of chalk grassland. Ash dominates the canopy in the secondary woodland (accounting for 70-80% of the canopy), making the visual effects of ash dieback clear to see even to the untrained eye.
This year will see the first of our large scale tree removal alongside paths, roadsides and car park, with an approx. 200 tonnes of ash to be removed. With such dramatic changes to the woodland habitat it has never been so important to have volunteers working together with the site manager Kate Harvey.
During the latter half of last year, the volunteer group worked closely with the local Badger society to map the setts on site to ensure any disturbance the ash felling operation is kept to a minimum. They also built relationships with the local dormouse monitoring group to learn more about where dormice are and what we can do to improve their habitat as the woodland begins to change.
In addition to supporting Kate with preparation of the ash dieback work, the group carry out practical tasks each month and this year are focusing their attention on the overgrown vegetation in the chalk grassland. Unfortunately, in 2018 the stock fencing around the chalk grassland was vandalised meaning the grazing sheep were no longer safe to carry out their good work of managing the scrub and vegetation. In 2019, repairs were made to the fencing ready for the animals to return, and in just one year the scrub has been making a comeback so volunteers have been working hard to help keep it down. Lowland chalk grassland is one of Western Europe’s most diverse plant communities, supporting a whole range of wildlife including wildflowers, insects, mammals and birds. Many of these species are specialists and are unable to live anywhere else. With sensitive management, the group are looking forward to restoring the unique habitat and patiently watching as the grassland naturally regenerates and butterflies return.
We’d like to take time to recognise and thank all the volunteers who are involved in the various roles at Marden Park. No one is sure yet exactly how ash dieback will affect the wood and the wildlife which depend on it, however, with such a dedicated team of volunteers on the ground we know we’ll be doing our best to protect and maintain ecological diversity at this special wood for future generations to enjoy.
We are currently recruiting for a variety of volunteer roles to support Kate and the local group at Marden Park. If you’d like to find out more, please comment below or contact Lucy Shea for further information.