What practical tasks and on the ground management do the rangers and volunteers get up to through the seasons? Although the Quantock Hills are a beautiful natural resource it can take a lot of hard work to keep them looking that way!
swaling till the end of March, trail audit and maintenance, bird monitoring, the deer count, 'slow the flow' measures to assist in flood prevention, beach cleans and the surveying of our butterfly population also begins.
Trail cutting and maintenance
There are various promoted routes around the Quantock Hills (see our Walks page) during the warmer months the ranger team audit, cut and maintain these routes. This may involve clearing plant growth to keep them open, repairing signs and waymarkers and ensuring gates and stiles and all in working order.
These beach cleans are carried out by our volunteer groups usually at Kilve or East Quantoxhead. As a group they record the quantities/types of rubbish found and then these results get fed into Marine Conservation Society national data.
Since 1991 the Quantock Hills AONB Service has assisted the Quantock Deer Management and Conservation Group to coordinate and carry out the annual deer count. Up to 50 volunteers carry out the survey on a early morning each March. Jochen Langbein (Wildlife Consultant) pulls together the results which help inform the management of the Deer on the hills. Please go to the Quantock Deer management and Conservation Group website for more information and results. We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to all those who are involved in the count.
trails cutting and maintenance work continues, tick surveys, litter picks, bat surveys, monitoring of butterflies, birds and other species
Over the Summer months many of our Quantock species are monitored by our volunteers and staff. Butterflies, birds, reptiles, doormice and even ticks have been surveyed over the years.
One of the species monitored regularly is the bat, in Somerset we are lucky enough to have recorded 16 of the 18 UK native bat species. If you have spent time outdoors during a summer evening in the countryside you will no doubt have witnessed these little furry mammals flying around catching insects whilst in flight. Almost impossible to identify whilst in flight, find out exactly how these fascinating creatures are monitored and why they are protected READ MORE HERE
Butterfly transects are carried out by our specially trained volunteers at two locations on the Quantocks, Fyne Court and Cothelstone Hill. The monitoring follows established routes which have been followed for the past few years.
Any sightings you have whilst on the hills can be fed into the Somerset Environmental Record Centre via their online form. By entering your sightings you are directly contributing to protecting wildlife in Somerset. SERC works with partners all across Somerset ensuring sightings are passed to those who need this information, which in turn helps to protect wildlife by providing decision makers with up to date knowledge on the State of Nature in Somerset.
Continuation of bat monitoring, coppicing and hedgelaying, scrub (gorse) cutting, tree audits at Cothelstone Hill and areas of the open common
Scrub (gorse) cutting is carried out predominantly at Cothelstone Hill as part of the HLS scheme to open up the grassland for the grazing Exmoor ponies and for the grassland flora to spread across the hill. This is carried out by the volunteers and sometimes contractors. Alongside this copicing of hazel stools also takes place to open up the woodland floor for flowers and to provide timber products such as thatching spars or hedging stakes.
One of the Quantock's distinctive features is the beech hedgebanks and also the beautifully hedged farmland. Hedgerows have a massive visual and aesthetic effect on the landscape, but they also provide corridors of shelter and food for all sorts of birds and small mammals.
Laying a hedge allows continuity in the hedgerow. Its natural life is extended, without this regeneration the hedge will mature and start to die. Gaps will appear, becoming larger and larger, until you are left with just a few gnarly old individual trees. We are supportive of anyone caring for their hedgerows in this way and as well as providing training for volunteers in this practice, we are keen to lend a helping hand to those wanting to lay and care for native hedgerows - see our Greater Quantock Landscape Development Fund page for more info.
When funding allows, in conjunction with FWAG South West (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group) the AONB has run training days and competitions and also with volunteer groups the rangers have restored boundary hedge feature using traditional techniques at various locations around the Quantock Hills.
Tree planting, Woodland thinning, Slow the flow/flood prevention, Coppicing, hedgelaying, swaling/cut and collect, Scrub (gorse) cutting
Slow the Flow
Slow the flow/flood prevention - Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) and Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) have funded a project to prevent flooding in the lowland areas by slowing water flow on the hills. This has been done by installing woody dams, birch hedge/barriers, installing stone drainage grips and coir matting. Most of this work so far has focused on the Wills Neck and Lydeard Hills area at but may well be rolled out to other locations.
This includes the planting of orchard trees, hedgerows and woodland at various locations to establish new areas or re-establish and restore the landscape in historical areas.
Until 31st March you may see great plumes of smoke rising from the hills. What's going on?!
What exactly is swaling? Swaling is the name given to controlled annual burning of vegetation. It is a traditional means of managing heathland, moorland and grassland to encourage new growth. It's been going on for thousands of years. The actual word ‘swaling' may come from an Anglo Saxon word Swaelan- to burn. The aim in swaling, is to have a controlled fire that removes surface vegetation to allow new growth from roots and seeds that remain undamaged in the soil. READ MORE