Smestow Valley LNR, Wolverhampton

Smestow Valley LNR, Wolverhampton

An insight into Birmingham and Black Country Nature Improvement Area work to improve woodland and restore natural grassland Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve,Wolverhampton.

In 2012 we identified 3 areas of the Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve in Wolverhampton where grassland restoration (Turner's Field) and woodland enhancement (Barley Field & Turner's Field plantations) should take place.

The plantations were created around 20 years ago, comprising a mix of species (such as Birch, Oak, Wild Cherry, Rowan & Hazel).  These had not been managed leaving them dense, and due a heavy thin. The field-layer ranged from very sparse in the denser areas to being dominated by nettle and bramble where light could penetrate.

In order to improve the structure of these woodland areas, Birmingham & Black Country Nature Improvement Area supported works, which began in at the end of 2012, to thin the area and sow locally collected Bluebell together with purchased Red Campion and Foxglove.  

These species are now growing in some abundance in the previously dark and species poor habitat.

 

Also at the reserve is an area of former grazed fields that have been unmanaged since the 1980s. They have consequently lost much of their value through scrub and Bramble encroachment.  

The project to improve this semi-natural grassland involved the removal of encroaching scrub (leaving scattered trees and larger shrubs as breeding and roosting habitat) and the restoration of the grassland by implementing a hay-meadow management regime

 

In 2013, the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and Black Country created a project to work with pupils from St Edmunds Catholic Academy and St Peters Collegiate School on the The Barley Fields site.

Sessions were run by the Wildlife Trust Community & Education staff during which the pupils were given a tour of the woodland where they were taught about the value of high quality woodlands, and why the work the NIA project was doing would benefit both people and wildlife. They were also taught about tool safety and woodland management techniques and had the opportunity to plant some below canopy tree species and field-layer plants including Primrose Red Campion and Foxglove.

 

Towards the end of 2013 the Wildlife Trust’s PAWS team cleared the scrub and cut the tussocky grassland to ground level. At the start of 2014 locally collected Yellow-rattle seed was sown into those areas still dominated by grassland.

Further work was undertaken to improve the woodland in February 2014 as part of a volunteer day. Here whips of field species including Hazel, Field Maple, Rowan and Crab Apple were planted to diversify the structure of the canopy/shrub layer. Plugs of Primrose, Yellow Archangel, Wood Sorrell, Wood Speedwell, Yellow Pimpernell were also planted. 

By the end of 2014 we saw the formally scrubby and bramble-dominated areas of grassland strewn with hay from Eades Meadow SSSI to create a brand new hay meadow, the benefits of which will hopefully begin to be seen this year.