3 August 2022 – This project was completed in partnership with Bristol Water PLC to develop 1.3 hectare of semi-improved grassland near the Axbridge/Cheddar Reservoir into a more valuable deciduous plantation woodland.
The project was initiated by Bristol Water PLC due to a change in use of the land, and consequently the change in the biodiversity.
The semi-improved grassland was historically cut for hay however the public footpaths which run through the field has resulted in the hay being poor quality and no value to tenant farmers. The reduced cutting and inability to graze this field is causing grasses to grow rank and risks scrub habitat encroachment.
The field being planted lies between arable fields and a water treatment facility owned by Bristol Water PLC.
The total number of planted trees was 1200. There was a variety of species including 350 Oak trees, 200 Maple trees and 100 Silver Birch, amongst others.
Bristol Water will take responsibility for maintaining the trees and delivering annual checks.
Public access and management:
The field contains a footpath which is well established as a recreational route for nearby Axbridge residents and visitors to Cheddar Reservoir. The footpath would remain unplanted but planting deciduous tree species in the field would be beneficial for the local residents and lake users’ wellbeing.
The field will become a more valuable asset for biodiversity. Under the Bristol Water Biodiversity Index (natural capital accounting tool based on the Defra Biodiversity metric) is valued at 3.98 Biodiversity Index points. Due to the change in grass cutting regime this asset is at risk of deteriorating in condition. Therefore, Bristol Water PLC have changed the asset to one which requires reduced annual maintenance and has the potential to achieve a higher Biodiversity Index points score as the trees establish. By changing the natural asset to a broadleaved woodland there is the potential to achieve 7.86 Biodiversity Index points in 5 years’ time.
Engagement, health and wellbeing:
Axbridge School children, Bristol Water conservation volunteers and University of Bristol Conservation volunteers were used to deliver the planting.
Once the planting was complete, Bristol Water PLC publicised this and engaged with residents, community groups and visitors to request their support in monitoring the trees progress.