THE national conservation charity, the Countryside Regeneration Trust (CRT), is planting fast-growing willows (osiers) on Bere Marsh Farm near Shillingstone in Dorset and is appealing for public donations to help protect the young trees.
Deer cause catastrophic damage to trees by stripping the shoots, foliage and flowering buds. The fence will protect the recently planted willow saplings when they are at their most vulnerable, and in the long term continue to protect the coppiced trees as they re-grow.
The willows are being planted in an area of Bere Marsh Farm that regularly floods, so arable crops would not survive and it is unsuitable for livestock. In keeping with the CRT’s commitment to nature-friendly farming, its solution is to create a willow bed of common osier that will thrive in the farm’s heavy clay soil.
The willow will be harvested to make craft products such as baskets, which in turn will generate a small income for the charity.
Within the fenced area the trust’s Bere Marsh team will also plant some Flanders red and Brittany green hybrid osier, to add ‘colour’ to woven products. Cuttings from the CRT’s Lark Rise Farm in Cambridgeshire will be used to establish the new trees.
The fence will also allow for natural regeneration within the protected areas, attracting wildlife such as sedge warblers, willow tits and butterflies to the new habitat.
“We’d be hugely grateful for any donation made to this project. Protecting the osiers as they become established is essential,” says Bere Marsh Farm manager, Elaine Spencer White. “Our broader plans for Bere Marsh Farm are bold in terms of improving the habitat and biodiversity in this part of the Dorset countryside.”
So far, more than £4,000 has been raised towards the cost of the fencing, but the CRT needs a further £1,000 to reach its target. If you’d like to help, please contact the CRT at Bere Marsh Farm, or email the trust’s head of development, Hayley Neal, on h.neal@nulltheCRT.co.uk
Pictured: Deer are beautiful creatures, but they damage young trees. Photograph © CRT