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Braunton Burrows work will help wildlife thrive

PUBLISHED: 13:00 18 March 2017

Scrub clearance work being carried out on Braunton Burrows.

Scrub clearance work being carried out on Braunton Burrows.

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It may appear drastic, but the heavy work that has taken place at Braunton Burrows will actually benefit the flora and fauna on the unique site

The work on the Burrows will make it easier for rare flowers to bloom.The work on the Burrows will make it easier for rare flowers to bloom.

The annual scrub clearing at Braunton Burrows may look severe but is actually necessary for wildlife to thrive.

That was the message from the caretakers of the UNESCO Biosphere reserve as a winter of work involving heavy machinery comes to an end.

There have been significant ground clearance works over the winter, removing undergrowth and roots to promote the growth of flowers found nowhere else in England, such as the dune gentian.

The scale and severity of the works on the world famous site prompted concerned comments on social media from people fearing it would damage the landscape.

Scrub clearance work being carried out on Braunton Burrows.Scrub clearance work being carried out on Braunton Burrows.

But Burrows education officer Rupert Hawley said: “All scrub clearance on the Burrows is discussed and carefully planned with Natural England.

“There are long term benefits for this unique environment and this spring and summer we look forward to seeing the extraordinary abundance and diversity of flowers for which the Burrows are famous.”

And Justin Gillett, Natural England’s conservation advisor added: “While it may appear like ‘unnecessary’ clearance of picturesque spots Burrows users are attached to, in the long run this newly opened up ground will thrive.

“Scrub left to grow unchecked would soon result in the Burrows being overgrown with brambles and Sea Buckthorn making it impenetrable for users who enjoy strolling through its open spaces.”

Clearance work is carried out by the Christie Estate under an HLS (Higher Stewardship Agreement) with Natural England, which prepares an annual scrub management plan which identifies areas that need to be cleared and piled, ready for burning the next season.

The public also raised concerns about the impact of the clearance work on local wildlife. To this Justin said: “While it is likely this process does have some impact, in terms of dislodging habitats and wildlife, it is important to view this in terms of the greater good. The bigger picture involves a battle to stem the spread of scrub which will have a longer term impact on species and habitats.”

As part of this season’s work, international charity Plantlife has funded work in Zone 1 to create suitable habitat for the rare dune gentian. Andy Byfield, who is overseeing the project for Plantlife, said: “Just as you would weed the garden to ensure a treasured plant grows properly, this clearance work opens up the ground to allow the Dune Gentian to thrive.”

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