Vegetation Clearance Works in 2010

Posted by Cain Blythe - CEnv MIEMA MIEEM MSc BSc (Hons) on 20/12/2010


Vegetation clearance or tree clearance is often one of the first steps required as part of land clearance projects and is often required to facilitate development or to manage conservation areas. Ecosulis is usually one of the first organisations on a site, both in terms of our ecological survey work as well as our countryside management services. Our role is to manage site risks including those of a Health and Safety nature as well as environmental and ecological risks. We are able to work as either the Principal Contractor or work on behalf of an extant Principal Contractor where a wider range of civils works are required, or work alongside the existing site owner or Ranger with respect to protected sites.

We have had a number of vegetation clearance projects this year, all with slightly different objectives. Below are three examples of projects characteristic of the work we routinely undertake:

  1. Climbing and inspecting 60 trees with potential to support roosting bats (Hampshire) – this project required assessing the trees and searching for features such as cracks, holes and splits or behind features such as bark or ivy, where bats are known to roost. We searched for evidence of bat presence such as droppings or urine stains and this enables us to determine whether the tree needs further protection, whether an EPS licence is required or if the tree can be felled. For this particular project no bat roosts were recorded and this data was supported by emergence survey data gathered earlier in the year. Staff of Ecosulis then cleared the trees using a combination of soft felling techniques, due to the proximity of the trees to residential properties.
  2. Clearance of 11ha of scrub, small trees and other vegetation (London) – this project required careful planning due to the uneven terrain and also the known presence of Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed, ground nesting birds, reptiles and water vole. The site required complete vegetation clearance to a height of 5cm. The work was undertake in two phases, first cutting trees and scrub to a height of 450mm and chipping the arisings in a wheeled chipper and dumper (a tracked chipper could not be used as a precautionary measure to avoid transporting Japanese knotweed around the site), and then all vegetation cut to 5cm using a tractor mounted flail. All work was supervised by an experienced ecological clerk of works who ensured that the land clearance avoided protected species and other sensitive areas. As part of the works Ecosulis also translocated reptiles, avoided nesting birds (i.e. demarcated a no-go zone around birds nests) and erected water vole fencing.
  3. 100ha of grassland clearance and cutting (Swindon) – as part of our ongoing maintenance requirements for this site, we undertake two annual cuts within fields proposed for long term development. The land in question is no longer under active farming and therefore such vegetation cutting measures are required to mimic the form of management that had previously been undertaken at the site. This ensures that the risks to both protected species such as skylarks, slowworms, grass snakes and great crested newts and the future developers of the site are managed, until the site is ready to be developed i.e. the condition of the grassland is maintained at levels that were previously known to exist. In addition to the bi-annual grass cutting Ecosulis undertakes other vegetation clearance works at the site, including removal and burning of Himalayan balsam, control of ragwort, strimming and hand cutting of vegetation within nature conservation areas and clearance of Typha and other undesirable vegetation from ponds.

While the three projects above outline larger scale projects we do also undertake more discrete vegetation clearance projects such as felling of individual trees, hand mowing, management of estates or large houses, hedgerow translocation, rhododendron control, Japanese knotweed control, Himalayn balsam control, pond maintenance and clearance, river restoration and maintaining tree planting and ornamental planting schemes.