Wildlife gardening volunteers

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There are many Sussex Wildlife Trust volunteer groups on the nature reserve at Rye Harbour and, perhaps surprisingly, there is a wildflower gardening group. One thinks of gardening groups in towns, villages, and cities, not necessarily on a nature reserve. However, it is a thriving group with many reasons for its existence and plays a significant part in the life of the reserve.

The purpose of the group is to regenerate areas of the reserve which have been impacted by construction and hard landscaping specifically, but not exclusively, the gabion garden area and the main tarmac strip from the discovery centre to the beach. Plant species are not being sown randomly – selected species are being sown in the places where they would have been growing before construction or land work took place, to help restore the original habitats.

Plants beginning to grow in the gabions at the reserve

Kathy Crowther, volunteer coordinator, explained: “Some wildflower and plant species were necessarily removed when the tarmac strip and discovery centre were constructed. Plants in other areas of the reserve have also been impacted by the work of other agencies. The volunteers are helping us to re-establish native plants and flowers, which in turn recreates habitats for insects and bees, and of course where there are insects, there is more food for birds.”

Lisa Solley described why she is volunteering with this group: “I’ve been walking the dogs on the reserve for years. It’s probably my favourite place in the world – my happy place, so that’s why I volunteer here.

“For a couple of hours a week I get to spend time outdoors with a great bunch of people, helping out in a place I love. We chat and have fun and get a bit of not too strenuous exercise. We started by collecting wildflower seeds on the reserve last autumn and planting them in and around the gabions by the discovery centre. It’s very exciting to see the work pay off now spring is on the way and the tiny seedlings are coming through. We’re now preparing the edges of the path for more wildflowers which we’ll be transplanting in a few weeks. The idea behind all this is that we preserve and increase the stock of some of the rarer plants on the reserve, along with the bees and insects that rely on them for food. That we get to have a good time while doing it is the icing on the cake.”

Kathy Crowther explaining the work on the gabions

Kathy is thrilled with the group’s work so far. “They have removed the original ‘construction’ shingle and the weed-resistant matting below it, laid down sand and shingle and re-seeded the ground areas. The volunteers opened the gabions, removed larger rocks, created embedded ‘troughs’ using recycled existing materials such as the weed-resistant matting then filled these with sand and shingle. Next, seeds were sown, pebbles returned along with smaller gabion rocks and then the gabions resealed. Seeds were harvested from appropriate species at the proper time and the group received wild flower and plant identification and seed retrieval tutorials from reserve manager Barry Yates. Barry takes a keen interest in the group and is often found hands-on helping on Thursday afternoons.”

To find out more about volunteering for Sussex Wildlife Trust at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, please email: ryeswtvolunteering@sussexwt.org.uk.

Image Credits: Kt bruce .

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