Case study: heathland restorations

Heath­land is an impor­tant habi­tat in Corn­wall, often on coastal strips.  These pho­tos relate to three sites we have worked on: St Agnes and Per­ran­porth Waste Water Treat­ment Works, for South West water, and Wheal Jane, for the Envi­ron­ment Agency.

The South West Water sites required rein­state­ment, fol­low­ing instal­la­tion of new pipelines as part of Oper­a­tion Clean Sweep, to improve the sea water qual­ity.  Wheal Jane, on the other hand was an oppor­tu­nity to extend small areas of heather in a river val­ley.  This was part of major land­scap­ing under­taken in con­junc­tion with the instal­la­tion of treat­ment works to deal with mine waste, which had over­flowed and pol­luted water­courses in 1993.

In all three cases adja­cent heather was used as a source for seed col­lec­tion.  This can be either mechan­i­cally har­vested, or hand col­lected in the autumn, before being shed onto the ground.  At Wheal Jane and St Agnes the seed was spread onto the site for restora­tion and left to ger­mi­nate nat­u­rally.  Best results were obtained on rougher ground, where seed nestling in hol­lows had a good micro­cli­mate.  The moral here is to not let the exca­va­tor oper­a­tor be too tidy!  At Per­ran­porth the reseeded areas were pro­tected with a mix of spe­cial fer­tiliser and a tar based solu­tion, sprayed over the site.  While this worked well, it was an expen­sive solu­tion, which we would only rec­om­mend in excep­tional circumstances.

As well as heath­land, an old meadow was rein­stated at Per­ran­porth, with har­vested hay from that meadow pro­vid­ing the seed source.   We also used a sys­tem of geo­t­ex­tiles and gabion mat­tresses to pro­tect and reveg­e­tate a con­t­a­m­i­nated soil bund around the main treat­ment plant.

We were less good with cam­eras in the pre-digital1990s, but included below are a num­ber of pho­tos taken on a recent tour.  The real test is how well things have worked ten years down the line!  The key to best prac­tice is to plan well ahead, and min­imise dam­age or dis­tur­bance.  Local seed is always bet­ter than com­mer­cial nurs­eries, and pro­vid­ing ground con­di­tions are left right, time and nature is a won­der­ful healer.

Con­tract val­ues: Wheal Jane £25,000, St Agnes £15,000, Per­ran­porth £93,000.

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