You may remember that last winter we planted a lot of willow to try and stop some of The Cluster ending up in the North Sea? See here…https://heggscastlecluster.org/2022/03/11/how-was-your-day/
After the floods three years ago, a large land slip started which with every proceeding flood caused more to be washed into the Arkle and more land to slip and be lost. So we decided to plant the area to try and stabilise it somewhat. ‘Soft engineering’ I believe it is called. Hundreds of willow went in with some being planted in the river itself.
Despite another very dry spring and summer (so far) they have nearly all grown (95%+). This is good. But as usual there is a ‘this is bad’ side. Although we have almost managed to keep sheep off The Cluster, the odd one or two still find their way in and this summer they have beaten a track to our new willows and have managed to nibble any foliage they can get at. Willow (Salix spp.) are well known for their medicinal effects and so I can only assume that we have been party to sheep in pain! (Look up the medicinal properties if you think I’ve finally lost it).
As we’ve been removing quite a bit of fencing recently I decided to erect a temporary barrier to see if we could give the willow a better chance of making to next winter, when we intend to plant more willow in the river itself as the sheep don’t appear to enjoy wading for their medicine. Time will tell.
Because sheep numbers are now very low, we have noticed a lot, nay an ‘explosion’ of alder regeneration. There is a lot in and around the willow we planted (sheep don’t seem to nibble it currently) and a lot on The Cluster generally. Alder, like willow, needs damp ground and the places where it is springing up are exactly the places that are most vulnerable to erosion from the river. It’s almost as if nature knows how to look after itself.