wpe7A.jpg (7211 bytes)

The Woodland Education Centre
The Heathland Restoration Project

wpe7A.jpg (7211 bytes)

Ecological Survey 1999


FOUR YEARS after the beginning of experimental management....

A total of 79 different plant species were recorded on the project site in 1999, through general observation, as well as surveying with a total of 199 quadrats.

Yorkshire Fog and Common Bent flowering on the project site. 1.      The grasses Yorkshire Fog and Common Bent remained the overall dominant species in most sections across the project site.

The only sections where these grasses were not the two most dominant species were sections 5 (control - no management) and 9 (hand weeding).

Yorkshire Fog had considerably decreased in abundance in many of the sections from the previous year, while Common Bent had increased.     

Grass Chart


Sweet Vernal Grass 2.     Common Bent  is often an important component of heathland vegetation.

Other characteristic heath grasses such as Sweet Vernal Grass (left), Velvet and Bristle Bents, as well as Purple Moor Grass, had become established in several sections of the project site.

Sweet Vernal Grass is one of the earliest flowering grasses and had usually died back by the time of the annual survey in July. Its abundance on the site was therefore underestimated by the survey data.


Polytrichum formosum and Thuidium tamarascinum. 3.    A variety of mosses occurred across the project site, the most abundant being Eurhynchium praelongum, Thuidium tamarascinum (left) and Polytrichum formosum (left).

The first two mosses often grew intertwined among the bases of the dominant grasses, forming an extensive ground layer, while Polytrichum was usually found as thick carpets or patches in more open areas.

The extent of moss cover had increased substantially across the project site since the previous year.  Moss Charts


Heather - Calluna vulgaris 4.    The abundance of heath species and particularly Heathers had greatly increased. Heather more than doubled in sections 6, 7 and 8 and appeared for the first time in section 4.

Spring cutting appears to favour the development of Heather and Bell Heather. Both these species appeared for the first time in spring cut sections on the southern side of the project site, which had not been thought to be particularly suitable for heath regeneration.


Bell Heather in section 7 5.      The northern half of the project site is more open, with a warmer, drier microclimate. This has favoured the development of heath species, with the differently managed sections 7, 8 and 9 in the northern sector, most resembling heathland habitats. All of these sections had considerable quantities of Heather. The distribution chart shows clearly how Heather was concentrated in the northern half of the project site.

Bell Heather (left - centre) was much less widespread than Heather. Section 7 contained the greatest abundance of Bell Heather. This had increased dramatically since the previous year.


Gorse in full flower in section 7. 6.      Section 7 is not only extremely different to the two other spring cut sections, but is also visibly entirely different to the differently managed sections on either side of it, which share similar environmental conditions. This indicates that the marked differences in vegetation in section 7 are a direct result of the management regime applied to this section alone.

The management of section 7 has differed from the other two spring cut sections in only two respects: - the initial control of regenerating gorse and grasses.

The gorse control clearly had no effect on the gorse (above). Indeed, gorse was dominant in this section within the first year. Gorse control would presumably need to be applied more often than once, possibly at regular intervals, in order to have a lasting controlling effect.

The greatest effect of the management in this section seems to have been in restricting grass regeneration. At the start of the experimental management regimes, grasses were dominant over most of the project site, outcompeting other herbaceous species. The restriction of initial grass growth in this section seems to have been vitally important, allowing other species the chance to become established to a point where they were then able to successfully compete with the grasses.


Slender St John's-wort  

7.        By 1999, the regeneration of a heathland habitat was well underway over much of the project site. Most of the typical heath species present on the project site had increased in abundance, especially in the northernmost sector.

Slender St John's-wort (left) was one of the few to decrease, particularly in section 7.




Heath Speedwell 8.       Brushcutting three times a year has resulted in the development of a diverse meadow habitat in section 6. The regular cutting has prevented any one plant from becoming too tall, allowing lower growing herbs such as violets and Heath Speedwell (left) to flourish.

This section contained extremely thick clumps of Heather, too dense to allow the establishment of any other plant species in its midst.

Section 6 contained little Bell Heather.

The amount of Pill Sedge had increased dramatically in section 6.


Bluebells in section 6. 9.     Spring brushcut strips appeared to have fewer bluebells than those cut in the autumn, although as the spring-flowering Bluebells have all died back by the time of the summer survey, their true abundance is not reflected in the survey data.

Bluebells were not recorded at all in sections 2 and 4 in the survey, although they were certainly present.

Bluebells occurred across much of the project site and were also found in sections 6 (left), 8 and 9.

Bluebell Sampling Exercise


Rhododendron ponticum 10.         Rhododendron ponticum had reappeared in sections 5 and 6.

This highly invasive, non-native species formed the understory on the project site before the site was cleared for restoration.


Section 5 1999 11.        Section 5 which has had no management since the beginning of the experiment had  grown into a virtually impenetrable thicket of gorse, brambles and young trees such as Silver Birch, cherry, willow and Hazel .

The vegetation in this section was approximately 2 metres high.

Without management, the whole of the project site would have looked like this.




Ecological Survey 1999