Keeping Budby’s bracken at bay

One of the important late summer tasks at Budby South Forest has been cutting back bracken in the Pigeon Pond area to restrict its growth and vigour, and restore the balance to more favourable heathland species.


This seasonal cutting by hand takes place each year from mid-August to mid-September and is done in such a way that it should impact upon the bracken rhizomes (the stems under the surface that send out roots and shoots) and reduce its height and density each year.

Without management, the bracken grows and dies back each year, rotting down and forming a thick layer of ‘bracken feg’ that smothers the ground flora below.

Volunteer Will cutting the bracken with a scythe at Budby. Photo by David Terry.

Repeated cutting by volunteers each year has disrupted this process of feg forming, increasing available light to the ground layer and allowed grasses, acid grassland flora and pioneer heather to recolonise areas previously swamped by the dominant bracken

It also exposes areas favourable for basking lizards and other wildlife.

What was once a boring brown mess is now green and wonderful, and continues to improve each year.

Pigeon Pond, in the north west corner of Budby, holds water year round (apart from in the recent drought conditions) and is notable for having the reserve’s only cross-leaved heath plants.

It’s home to some interesting and locally rare ferns, such as lemon scented fern, and recently home to two exclosures that contain creeping willow and bilberry plants.

Herbicides are not used at Pigeon Pond as it is a permanent water body, as well as to protect the reserve’s interesting fern species.

If you would like to volunteer at Sherwood Forest and Budby South Forest, find out more on our Volunteer with Us page.