Barry, the water vole.

Megan and Barry

Meet Barry, the water vole, being held by Megan Philpot of the Derek Gow Consultancy. Barry was caught yesterday out at Great Bells on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent where I am spending plenty of time working for Medway Internal Drainage Board on a scheme to widen a drainage channel. Unfortunately this means that the water voles need to be temporarily evicted so as not to be hurt by the machines. Barry is currently spending his days in a warm container fattening up on Golden Delicious apples before being released later this year.

Barry the water volebarry

A year in the life of an environmental consultant – February 2016

water and grazing machines. The key ingredients in encouraging lapwing.

water and grazing machines. The key ingredients in encouraging lapwing

February Fill Dyke is written into farming law. If your ditches are not full of water in February, so the saying goes, then it’s unlikely they will be. Full dykes, wet fields, short grass, that was what we were looking for as we returned to the farms receiving stewardship funding to manage the land for the benefit of breeding waders.

After a winter of meeting landowners and working with  Natural England and the RSPB it was heartening to see how good the majority of sites were looking. Wet splashes and tussocky grass lead to insect rich pasture which should attract and support more breeding birds this spring.

It is six weeks until the survey season starts but, due to the positive attitude of the farmers and the flexibility of Natural England and the RSPB, who are supporting this project, then things are looking hopeful.

February is also a traditional time of year to do hedgelaying. A weekend training course run by Alan Sage of AJS Crafts gave all those taking part an appreciation of the sheer physicality and skill needed to create a well laid hedge. Although mainly now used for decoration, hedge laying produces a stock proof barrier and can be cost affective as, once laid, the hedge can be left unmanaged for 15 years. They are also an asset to the countryside which is more than can be said for the ugly, split, flailed hedges that line our country roads at this time of year.

carol hedgelaying

freshly pleached hedge. Cutting the hedge in this way allows new shoots to grow.

hillers binding

The hedge is staked and woven with long flexible rods known as binders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The month finished by working with Oxney Land Services on Iwade Stream. Funded by the Medway and Swale Estuary Partnership we undertook some selective tree removal on an overly shaded section of the channel. Removal of ivy clad trees and low branches should allow more sunlight to reach the water and encourage the growth of marginal plants. Water vole and water rail live in this section of channel so more bankside cover should benefit these species.

oxney at work on Iwade streamoxney in action