Management Plan (2010) Summary Document

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Gowy Meadows Management Plan 2010-2020
Summary
Description
Gowy Meadows Nature Reserve covers 166 ha on the eastern bank of the Gowy floodplain,
close to the river’s confluence with the River Mersey at Stanlow. Two-thirds of the site
comprises rushy pasture on the flood plain itself, with the remaining third, along the eastern
side, being on drier mineral ground. A network of straight open ditches drains the peaty
soils of the former tidal marshes. They support a diverse flora and fauna, which includes
several species classed as rare or uncommon in Cheshire, currently making them one of the
site’s most important wildlife features. The fields on the mineral soil have been improved to
a greater extent agriculturally, but old hedges and boundary trees still enclose them and the
old green lanes that give access to the reserve. The Reserve is held on a 25-year lease from
the owners, Shell UK. Assisted by a Countryside Stewardship agreement to maintain the
infrastructure and habitat features, CWT’s stock graze the majority of the land, while the
southeastern third is sublet to a local grazier. Shooting rights are retained by the
landowners and let to Newton-le-Willows Wildfowlers.
Identification/confirmation of important features
From a nature conservation point of view, the restorable wet grassland and ditches, with
their associated flora and fauna are the most important features (full details are set out in
Table 1 below).
Comparative importance of site features (potential on enhancement in red italics)
Importance
Site Feature
1. Geology & geomorphology
2. Vegetation types:
Lowland wet grassland
Dry neutral grassland
Permanent/seasonal open
water and peaty ditches
Swamp and fen
Ponds
Hedgerow trees
Hedgerows
International
National
Regional
average
(average)
high
average (high)
average (high)
(high)
(high)
high
average
high
average
3. Species/assemblages:
Otter
Local
high
high
Water Vole
average (high)
Great Crested Newt
Wildfowl & waders (esp. Pintail,
Lapwing, Snipe and Redshank*)
Raptors (esp. Kestrel, Barn Owl,
Hobby and Peregrine)
Raptors (esp. Hen Harrier, Marsh
Harrier and Short-eared Owl)
Reed Bunting & Stonechat
(breeding)
‘Farmland’ birds (sparrows,
finches, buntings &c.)
(high)
average
high
(average)
high
low (high)
Aquatic invertebrate
assemblage
Dragonfly/damselfly
assemblage
Wall (butterfly)
high
average (high)
average
high
high
Mud Snail
Lesser Silver Water Beetle
high
Black Poplar
high
Bladderwort
average
high
high
average
Brown Sedge
Meadow Rue
Whorl-grass
Water-violet
Rationalisation of Ideal Management Objectives
Ideal Objective (abbreviated)
Constraint
Operational
Objective/prescription
Preserve/enhance the open character
of the floodplain, creating conditions
suitable for the long-term development
of a vegetation mosaic typical of peaty,
lowland grassland.
Preserve, enhance and increase the
ditches and seasonally flooded areas,
especially Phragmites reedbed,
associated with the floodplain
grassland zone.
Preserve/enhance previously
agriculturally improved dry neutral
grassland, managing land by traditional
grazing and/or haymaking to encourage
the development of a more typical
community type.
Water level control
(TMD).
Water for stock.
Vehicle access for
topping.
Water level control.
Safe poaching by stock.
Potential pollution (TMD).
Limited water quality
data.
Cost, if not funded.
Legacy of elevated soil
nutrient levels.
As ‘Ideal’, but prescriptions
need to accommodate
constraints.
As ‘Ideal’, but prescriptions
need to accommodate
constraints.
As ‘Ideal’, but land may
require remedial soil nutrient
stripping.
Safeguard, maintain and enhance
appropriate habitat within those parts
of the site that key fauna species are
already known to use.
Safeguard, maintain and enhance
appropriate habitat within those parts
of the site where key plants are already
found.
Enhance wet and dry grassland to
provide breeding/over-wintering
habitat attractive to Lapwing and a
variety of wildfowl and wading birds.
Preserve, enhance and increase pond
and hedgerow features associated with
the dry grassland zone.
Maintain conditions to support avian
predators and enhance wetland
grassland to bring additional
characteristic raptors.
Prescribe and carry out an effective,
low intensity monitoring strategy to
enable the effectiveness of the
management strategies to be assessed,
and to provide useful data to assess
unexpected habitat or species change
attributable to off-site influences.
Maintain an infrastructure allowing
access for maintenance, monitoring
and controlled public access across the
site
Increase public awareness and
appreciation of the wildlife value of
habitats associated with lowland wet
grassland and traditionally managed
farmland
Improve wildlife links that connect
Gowy Meadows Reserve to other wet
grassland in the River Gowy floodplain
and the nearby ‘Mersey’ Marshes
Conflicting requirements
of different species with
overlapping distributions.
Enhancement only when not
adversely affecting other
species of interest.
Conflicting requirements
of different species with
overlapping distributions.
As for fauna (above), but
there is less likelihood of
conflict.
Tussocky nature of sward.
No tilled land.
Concentrate effort on areas
where there will be least
public disturbance.
Cost, if not funded.
GCN presence, otherwise
none.
Adverse impact on Water
Voles, Waterfowl and
Waders.
As ‘Ideal’, but ensure a Pond
Conservation Licence is in
place.
Enhance habitats to increase
capacity.
Cost, if not funded.
Insufficient experts to
undertake the work.
Very important, but
constraints impose stringent
limitations on scope.
Essential to adopt a ‘SMART’
monitoring strategy.
H & S (terms of lease).
No infrastructure (styles,
paths and bridges).
Objective should be for only
limited increase.
Limited public access on
site, otherwise none.
Use the site to promote
sensitive floodplain
management via ‘The Grebe’
and other media.
Landfill site sterilises a
part.
Highway fragmentation.
Stanlow refinery.
CWT is not the
landowner.
Use opportunities arising
from ‘Mersey and Gowy
Washlands Project’.
Offer grazing if stock
available.
Existing/Desired States and the prescribed management required to realise the plan objectives
are portrayed in map format. The key maps are: Map H - Existing State; Map J - Desired;
State; Map K - Management Required.
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