Friends of Breach Common
The Friends of Breach Common re-formed in 2020 to begin to restore the open space of Breach Common for wildlife and for local people to enjoy.
Work began in March 2020 with initial work led by Darwin Ecology and the Shaftesbury Open Spaces Group to open up two existing ponds on the common which were heavily overshadowed by willow and scrub. Further work is still required but removal of the trees will allow the native pond vegetation to regenerate and repopulate the wet areas.
Throughout summer 2020, we made a concerted effort on Saturday afternoons with dozens of enthusiastic volunteers from the local community to begin to tackle the invasive Himalayan balsam which has taken over on much of the common.
We managed to clear a huge area and prevent more seed being spread but there is plenty more to do!
We are now working towards a long-term management plan to continue this work to maximise the biodiversity and beauty of the common and as part of this there will be more management undertaken in 2021. We are always happy to hear from anyone who wants to get involved or added to the mailing list for information!
Breach Common Opportunities going forward
A survey of the site has been undertaken and the ecological opportunities available were identified and a long term vision for the area set out.
Three main aims for management of the site have been identified:
To increase the opportunities for wildlife through appropriate habitat management and creation.
To increase the diversity of the species using the site by providing better quality habitats.
To provide a dynamic and multi-functional public green space valued by both people and wildlife.
There are ten major objectives in order to achieve the desired management aims:
The management of open habitats to recover areas of grassland and reduce scrub dominance to increase diversity of habitats on site;
The management of open grassland areas to encourage botanical and floral diversity;
The management of scrub and selective retention of native trees within open habitats to create transitional habitat opportunities;
The maintenance of a dynamic mosaic of open and scrub habitats on site;
Coppice management of areas of woodland habitat to introduce a more diverse structure and vegetation communities;
The retention of any mature native trees, and standing and fallen deadwood where possible;
Management of existing ponds and creation of new ponds where appropriate to safeguard the existing metapopulation of great crested newts in the local area;
The creation and maintenance of new habitat features to enhance the value of the site for native wildlife;
The removal and control of non-native plant species; and
The management of human impacts on the site such as littering, fouling or antisocial behaviour.
For full details of the proposed management to achieve these aims, see the full document available to download here.
We sought feedback on proposals during January/February 2021
If you have any other comments, suggestions or ideas to feed into the longer term management of the site, we would be pleased to hear them.
For more information about Breach Common and any events planned email:
firstname.lastname@example.org or join our Facebook group.
Progress Update - March 2021
There has been a lot of activity in the last few months and particularly during the lockdown there have been many more people walking the paths and generally opening up the site and the views.
Perhaps, most importantly, Mariko and Mike from Darwin Ecology have carried out a wildlife survey of the whole site and made a series of suggestions for future management. A subsequent online consultation on their recommendations indicated widespread support and we have started one of the most significant actions, i.e. to clear some of the rampant brambles as part of a long term aim to re-establish areas of open grassland. Three day’s work with a small digger has cleared the worst and opened up the access, but there is still a profusion of viable roots that need digging out by hand. A few hardy volunteers have cleared a lot but there are many more to pull.
Meanwhile, John Rutter and a small band of socially distanced helpers have been coppicing discrete areas woodland where it will let in more light and help to encourage a more diverse ground flora. Also, water has returned to the pond areas, as well as the wettest of the footpaths and we hear that the crested newts are alive and well.
The warmer weather will soon bring a rapid regrowth of vegetation and the dreaded Himalayan balsam but hopefully it will be easier to tackle mechanically where the brambles have been cleared.
This brings us on to money. We have been able to progress so far with the help some generous private donations and grants from the Town Council and the Shaftesbury Charitable Trust but, to carry on, we are probably going to need well over a £1,000 a year to cover everything from mechanical work and detailed monitoring to footpath drainage and minor tree work. There is lots to be done but, most importantly of all we want to keep the common as natural as possible with a minimum of disturbance. Fundraising is our next task.
Finally, a big thank you to the Swans Trust for looking after the money and acting as a charitable base, Darwin Ecology for doing far more than they were paid for, the many volunteers who have helped out the numerous well-wishers who have encouraged us along the way.
John Parker and John Rutter
on behalf of the Friends of Breach common and the Swans Trust