Natural England

Cavenham Heath, 2022 & 2023

Conservation Works

Cavenham Heath National Nature Reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is on Open Access Land managed by Natural England. The site has habitats of heath, grassland, woodland, wetland and areas of fen. The 204 hectares is home to a wide variety of bird species. Of particular interest are the breeding Stone Curlew which in autumn, can be seen in pre-migration gatherings numbering over 100 birds before heading south for winter. There are good numbers of rare and scarce plant species too, many species of butterfly and over 400 species of moth recorded on site.

TTSR Ltd were contracted for excavation works to expose subsoil in three particular areas, forming high banks for Rabbit habitats. These banks, built with south-facing orientation—so that they are in full sunlight—allow the rabbits to build warrens in the sandy heath; to protect and sustain the species. The presence of the Rabbits and the way they graze allows for small heathland plants to grow, that often cannot survive in other areas. These, in turn, attract and support the spread of other small creatures, including Stone Curlews – which is another Natural England Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) target species – as they like the short grass sward that Rabbits create.

The bottom of the trench is dug unevenly to provide many north, south, east, west microclimates. Other insects and species of moths and butterflies, some of which are threatened with extinction, particularly benefit from this.

2022 and 2023 Works

TTSR attended Cavenham Heath National Nature Reserve in January 2022 to dig the first set of rabbit banks, using a 14-tonne 360-degree excavator. Works needed to be completed in the winter before nesting season to protect the wildlife. Although the ground is harder at this time, the natural die-back of vegetation during the winter months means the machinery affects the least possible growth, and provides an area for creatures to build their habitats in good time for the spring season.

The banks were created over a number of days on the exposed heath area. Firstly the turf was removed, then the topsoil, to expose the subsoil at about a depth of 40-50cm. A high bank was formed at the side for the rabbits and other creatures to burrow and feed in. Visiting later in the year, we could see multiple areas where the soil had been disturbed and burrowed into by rabbits and possibly adders, and evidence of the presence of deer too. Smaller creatures and various types of vegetation were also beginning to thrive there.

In January 2023 TTSR was contracted to return to dig an additional rabbit bank in another area of the heath, which was completed early February. Again, we hope this will be a benefit to the multitudes of flora and fauna thriving in the area.

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