After many years of discussion, consultation and negotiation, in June 2019, the London Borough of Barnet granted The Darlands Conservation Trust a 99 year lease on the Darlands Nature Reserve. The Trust is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) established by members of our local community to conserve, protect and improve Darlands Nature Reserve. This was a major step towards protecting this wonderful area for wildlife and for the community for generations to come. But this was just the start.
Habitat management work is already underway. Over the winter months volunteers have been busy clearing areas of scrub in the north field. This is the first stage of re-establishing areas of grassland and re-opening forgotten tracks and paths. This was greatly assisted by a generous donation from Moat End Farm of a tractor and driver for a day, enabling the clearance of a much greater area. Unfortunately the lockdown has halted workdays until further notice.
It is hoped that despite the lockdown the annual treatment of Giant Hogweed will still be able to go ahead as planned this summer. Giant Hogweed is an invasive, non-native species that has become established at Darlands over many years. It grows up to three metres tall with large white flower heads each producing thousands of seeds. It out-competes native plants and negatively impacts biodiversity.
It is also hazardous to health as its sap can cause severe blistering and burns when it comes into contact with skin exposed to sunlight. It is expected to take up to ten years of annual treatment to completely eradicate this species.
Tree surgeons have carried out works on trees around the reserve that have fallen onto paths or pose a threat to safety. Wherever possible dead wood is retained in situ as it provides sustenance, nutrients and shelter for numerous species of woodland animals, plants and fungi.
Willows and alder trees along one side of the lake have also been coppiced. This will allow more sunlight into the woodland and the lake margins. Coppicing is a traditional form of woodland management where the stems are cut close to the ground. This is beneficial to the trees which will regrow more vigorously and will encourage flowers and insect activity, benefiting birds, bats, and other wildlife. The cut timber will be stored and used for fencing and paths around the reserve.
For many the lake is the highlight of a visit to the nature reserve and it is of primary importance to the reserves value to wildlife. It also poses the Trust’s biggest challenge. Silt has accumulated in the lake over the decades, reducing the area of open water by almost half. Once over 2 metres deep, the lake is now less than 20 centimetres and has completely dried up during prolonged periods without rain.
Addressing this by removing much of the silt will require a major engineering project estimated to cost in excess of £300,000.
Darlands Conservation Trust receive no government or local authority funding. Lockdown has forced the cancellation of all of our planned fundraising events.So now more than ever your donations are vital to securing the future of Darlands
For more information about Darlands Nature Reserve, the Darlands Conservation Trust or to make a donation or regular gift please visit our website: darlandsconservationtrust.org.uk.