Sophie Rolfe, Visitor Ranger

For the Park Management Team the arrival of winter has meant we can tackle our programme of winter works, doing jobs that can’t be done in the summer months when the park and is at its busiest.

Tree works are under way, undertaking a mixture of woodland management, pollarding and essential safety works. A programme of regular maintenance and monitoring allows us to ensure the trees are in a safe condition, and in cases such as the larger willow trees pollarding also helps us keep them healthy and prolong their lives. Our woodland management work again allows us to ensure the woodlands are safe for visitors as well as ecologically in a favourable condition by helping maintain a diverse structure within the woodland, improve species diversity and reduce any disease. For example, Lynch Wood is largely dominated by Ash, which as well has being poor in terms of species diversity, it is also being affected by Ash Dieback. Removing some of the unhealthy trees will make the area safer as well as help improve species diversity and structure within the wood with the  regeneration that will happen as a result.

Along with tree work, winter is also hedge cutting season, as this is the time of year with least risk to nesting birds. Our hedgerows have a cutting programme to ensure that they are kept well managed but also leave areas for wildlife to use for cover and a source of winter food. You may see our team out with the tractor and flail, if you encounter them on your trip to the park please follow their instructions and be patient, for everybody’s safety.  

Visitors who walk through Bluebell Wood will have noticed some work being carried out around the Boathouse area over the last few weeks. A new rustic picket fence is being installed by the rangers and volunteers as the old fence was well past its best.

Otter play will be being closed for a short period in the New Year to allow the rangers time to carry out some essential maintenance work. This will include the replacement of the swings, replacement of the boundary fence, and some general landscaping work within the play area. This kind of work is carried out over the winter to have least impact on our visitors, who we understand will be disappointed by the closure but it will be worth it! Keep an eye on our social media pages for updates on exact closure and reopening dates.

Ranger Paul, assisted by some of the other rangers and our hard working volunteer “Hit Squad” team kicked off the winter with a marathon cabin building effort for the Christmas Fair event.

Winter is an important time in the Nene Valley, an area known for its importance for overwintering wildfowl. This summer we worked with the RSPB and Wildlife Trust to create some shallow channels on the Rural Estate to create additional wetland habitat, as is already seen on Heron and Goldie Meadows at Ferry Meadows. So far the drains have been filling and holding water well, and with monitoring work starting in December to see what birds are using the area we should be able to provide more updates as the year goes on. Alex, our apprentice, is monitoring the birds using another area on the Rural Estate planted to provide a winter food source for farmland birds, and results from the first survey showed it is already being well used.