CRBPG PROJECT REPORT:

RHODODENDRON CLEARANCE AT WINDMILL HILL

 By Friends of Runcorn Woods & BTCV Cheshire

The Project

 

The support from CRBP generated funds to enable the removal of invasive species at Windmill Hill woodland, Runcorn. The site is owned and managed by The Woodland Trust with additional support from Friends of Runcorn Woods. Our successful application meant that we were able to not only increase the number of BTCV supervised workdays for the Friends group but also pay for essential tools and PPE so that we can be self sufficient in these for future projects.

Over the past few years much work has been undertaken to remove rhododendron from Windmill Hill Woodland. Of all the sites this receives the most visitors and is the highest profile site the Friends are supporting, so it was felt that we’d make the largest impact here in terms of being both a visible force to the community and benefit wildlife where local people will see the work.

At Windmill Hill, the rhododendron shades out more valuable native trees on site, as well as providing little benefit to local wildlife. The majority of rhododendron tackled was an isolated patch across one bank on the south-eastern edge of the woodland.

When developing project this took on board feedback (through Woodland Trust research) from local people using the site that the woodland is too dense in places and that they felt unsafe using some footpaths as the dense cover could hide dangers. Aside from the habitat improvement, an additional benefit of removing the rhododendron was in opening up of sight lines either side of the main footpath to create a lighter, “friendlier” woodland that the community can feel safer using. So undertaking this work has also responded to the community’s needs and valued their voice.

The Benefits

The managed area of woodland is an example of good practice for countryside management to be viewed by the Friends group members and local people. It has become a talking point for passersby whilst we worked on the project, as a springboard for woodland management issues and introducing them to the local group.

Later this year spring the Woodland Trust are arranging Bluebell Walk events at Windmill Hill, open to the local community, which have been very popular with residents in Runcorn over the past 2 years. The removal of the rhododendron has opened up the woodland to encourage the spread of this native wildflower enjoyed by all.

Although the CRBPG support provided 3 days of BTCV supervised work on the project we were able to match fun with the Woodland Trust who provided a further 4 days. This combined funding has allowed us to tackle the invasive rhododendron more heavily and have a real impact on its spread across the site. The work was carried out by Friends group members, BTCV midweek volunteers from the Halton & Warrington area, students and staff from Cavendish Special School, participants in Runcorn’s Future Jobs Fund scheme and young people & staff from Halton YOTS (Youth Offenders Team).

Methods & BAP Aims

 

The presence of rhododendron is not favourable in native woodland as it suppresses surrounding plants which are less competitive, such as native bluebells which are present. This project has been part of the ongoing work planned for Friends of Runcorn Woods over the next few winters, whose aim is to restore the woodland habitat in line with the Woodland Trusts aims. The cut stumps were treated with glyphosate to suppress re-growth. The group also took time to retreat any re-growth from previous years of rhododendron management. Dead hedges were built across the site using the cut material, which served a number of purposes:

  • Providing a barrier to prevent trampling of new growth from walkers and dogs.
  • Creation of a micro habitat for invertebrates, nesting birds and small mammals.
  • Creation of a wildlife corridor on the woodland floor, providing cover in newly opened up areas of the site.
  • Visual interest to visitors to the woodland, they can see that the site is managed and cared for.

 

The above methods of the project link with the following local and national BAP initiatives:

Woodland 1

Maintain the extent of all semi-natural native woodland (including ancient woodland) at the 2007 baseline level of 5594 Ha in the Cheshire region.

Woodland 2

Achieve favourable condition of 3984 Ha of the semi-natural and ancient woodland resource in the Cheshire region by 2015.

Woodland 3

Achieve restoration of 100 Ha of semi-natural and/or ancient woodland in the Cheshire region by 2015.

Bluebell 1

Maintain the range of bluebell at the 2007 baseline level of 285 occupied tetrads

Bluebell 2

Achieve an increase in the range of bluebell from 285 occupied tetrads in 2007 to 333 by 2015

The Results

Progress towards measured outputs Achieved to date
Number of Halton YOTS (Youth Offending Team) involved 4
Number of metres of dead hedgerow habitat created 400m (approx)
Square metres of rhododendron removed and stump treated 10,000m (approx)
Square metres of previously managed rhododendron re-growth stump treated 6000m (approx)
Hectares of broadleaf mixed woodland maintained 2
Hectares of woodland thinning undertaken 2
Hectares of bluebell habitat restored 2.5
Number of core volunteers recruited and involved 43
Number of core volunteers recruited 25
Number of Schools involved 1
Number of Friends of Runcorn Woods group involved 5

 

Date Group Total volunteers Volunteer Names
05/01/11 Halton & Warrington Conservation VolunteersFriends of Runcorn Woods 10 Len Corby, Graeme Fallon, Peter Newman, Gary Pendlebury, John Ryan, Darren Threllfall, Laura Tilley, Beverley Timms, Glen Wall, Tony Whitaker
07/01/11 Halton & Warrington Conservation VolunteersFriends of Runcorn Woods 4 Joseph Bailey, Laura Tilley, Glen Wall, Alan Webb
12/01/11 Halton & Warrington Conservation VolunteersFriends of Runcorn Woods 12 Dayna Adamson, Pete Baker, Fernanda Bruno, Steve Cheetham, Len Corby, Isobel Forbes, Rob Garner, Martin Knight, Darren Threllfall, Andy Wells, Tony Whitaker, John Williams
11/02/11 Halton & Warrington Conservation VolunteersFriends of Runcorn Woods

Cavendish School

17 James Barlow, Bob Clutton, Rob Garner, Michael Irwin, Nikolay Krastev, Colin Mountain, Kathryn Young, Laura Appleton, Matthew Boardman, Jess Canavan-Daly, Daniel Grindrod, Jordan Houghton, Wendy McDonnell, Daniel Moore, Kelsey Muldoon, Debbie Rex, Michael Urmson
16/02/11 Halton & Warrington Conservation VolunteersFriends of Runcorn Woods

Runcorn Future Jobs Fund Team

19 Pete Baker, Claire Bates, Joshua Birchall, Len Corby, Barrie Etheridge, Rob Garner, Liam Grimes, Colin Mountain, Tony Whitaker, Kathyrn Young, Amanda Crinson, Adam Trow, Shane Nicholson, David Davies, Jay Galloway, Richard Bruen, Tom Wright, Josh Humphreys, Liam Gallagher.
18/02/11 Halton & Warrington Conservation VolunteersFriends of Runcorn Woods

Halton YOTS

10 Steve Cheetham, Adam Clare, David Davies, Barrie Etheridge, Rob Garner, Janine Lee, Rob Mattravers, Colin Mountain, Matthew Tipping, Alan Webb
23/02/11 Halton & Warrington Conservation VolunteersFriends of Runcorn Woods 7 Isobel Forbes, Rob Mattravers, Claire McLinden, Colin Mountain, Peter Newman, Tony Whitaker, Kathryn Young

 

Total project days: 7 

Total Volunteer Work Hours: 474 (based on 6 hour workday) 

Total Volunteers: 79 

Individual Volunteers: 51

Acknowledging the Project

The support from CRBP has been acknowledged in an article submitted to the Runcorn Weekly News (March 2011) and the project has been promoted in local press in January and February.