Monday 10 March 2014

To tree or not to tree...

...that was the question last Monday when a bout of bizarre weather rolled in. We have been up against some pretty rubbish conditions to get more Black Poplar trees planted on the River Mole floodplain. 

Braving the elements

Although intense rain and hail does add a certain edge to a task

It was the Security Leadership Team who drew the short straw, and fair play to them for persisting with this job! We had hoped to get a line of trees planted as close to the main channel as possible, which is a quite a challenge when the River Mole decides to misbehave. In addition to those we planted last year, these young Black Poplar whips were kindly provided by the Sussex Wildlife Trust and Wakehurst Place, so we are doing all we can to give them a good start.

Our line of native Black Poplar

The native Black Poplar tree Populus nigra subsps. betulifolia is under serious threat, with only around 38 mature specimens left in Sussex and 7000 in the whole of the UK. This tree naturally occurs in riverside woodland, which itself is now a rather scarce habitat due to modern land management practices. You can read more about the importance of this habitat and some of the efforts going into restoring it here:

As these tree guards could be knocked over by the high flow (the Mole has a habit of quick-rising water levels and surges), Tom S. has directed the team in creating some log deflectors to snag debris and protect the bases of trees from getting bashed. These deflectors are staked into the ground with cut willow and we can continue building them up in time with extra logs.

Around 15 years ago, the River Mole here at Gatwick was diverted and sculpted to create large, natural-looking meanders and floodplain grassland. This habitat helps reduce the rapid water flow and flooding off the surrounding urban and airport areas, undeniably of benefit during the extreme wet weather at the end of 2013.

Scrub clearance to the west of Brockley Wood

After the trees were sited in their new homes, we continued on with some willow scrub coppicing to the west of Brockley Wood.

Habitat piling


As the day went on, Nathan was gradually morphing into another Tom...

Perhaps an improvement on the old Tom? I'd watch out if I were you buddy!

I imagine people might enjoy hearing about how badly behaved this lot were, but they actually mucked in and did a really grand job, plus not a single one of them ended up in the water... Sorry about that.

Carolyn, Nathan, Chris, Andrew, Allison and Julian

Thanks again team, we hope to see you out and about again this coming summer (if you haven't been put off!)

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