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Planting in the Upper Cree

Just before the hard weather set in, we managed a day`s planting with the volunteers in the Upper Cree. Contractors are carrying out the bulk of this work but some of the smaller, easier to access areas have been ear-marked for planting with the CVCWT volunteer group. We are particularly keen to plant some willow slips, cut from existing specimens. Willows were one of the earliest arrivals after the last ice-age and hence there has been a very long time for invertebrates to adapt to using them. They can therefore support well over 250 species of insects which is approaching the number associated with our most valuable tree species, the oak. The willows will be planted in suitable habitat near the streamsides, particularly where water voles have been found where they will provide a valuable source of winter fodder.

On some of the grassy banks as where we were planting on this occasion, several less welcome field voles were seen, disturbed from the long grass. These can be quite destructive to newly planted trees, gnawing at the bark and often causing death by ring-barking. To manage against this the trees are planted by first `screefing’ a patch of ground by removing a turf. This creates a piece of bare ground where the voles feel less secure and are more open to predators such as owls. The trees are planted in these patches and fitted either with a vole guard or with a tree guard, pressed into the ground to prevent access by the voles.

Apart from the willows and where the soil and conditions are suitable, a good range of native broad-leaved species are being planted including downy birch, rowan, alder, ash, hazel, hawthorn, sessile oak and aspen. More species are being grown in our tree nursery to plant later.