A Moor for all Seasons: Protecting Flitwick Moor
Written by: Sophie Stocking
Flitwick Moor nature reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has a range of habitats including woodland, wetlands and grasslands. It is one of the most important wetlands in the region. The project set out to bring a range of benefits to the reserve, including habitat management, improved infrastructure and access, including intellectual access.
The reserve is managed through a range of activities, including grazing and manual management by staff, volunteers and contractors. During the lifespan of the project we introduced grazing to parts of the reserve, to enhance the biodiversity interest of the wetlands and woodlands. This was made possible by the installation of a bridge, connecting two of the reserve compartments. We also installed a culvert, trackway and another bridge to allow access for management into parts of the reserve that were previously accessible on foot only. We carried out repairs to the central drain that runs through the centre of the reserve, and we repaired a mill leat that was flooding parts of the site making grassland management more difficult. We also installed a cattle handling pen to make the site more attractive to graziers.
We installed an extension to an existing boardwalk through some of the wettest parts of the reserve, to allow better access for visitors, and to prevent erosion of the fragile peat soils. We had new interpretation designed and installed to better inform visitors about the wildlife on the reserve and its management. We ran a variety of community events including an invertebrate day annually. We also trained up staff and volunteers with skills that will enable the future management of the reserve to continue. Volunteer involvement was key to the success of the project.
The project delivered a range of benefits to the reserve – in particular the infrastructure improvements will make the reserve easier to manage in the long run. Access to the reserve for management purposes has been improved, and the visitor experience has been enhanced by improvements to physical and intellectual access. The reserve is now more resilient and able to cope with future challenges. Getting the mill leat repaired was a particular success.
Benefits to People
Visitors to the reserve have benefited from improved physical access by way of a boardwalk, and intellectual access in the form of interpretation and events. We have engaged with visitors to the reserve as part of our ongoing activities on the site. People have volunteered their time to help deliver the project aims, and thus gained the benefits of volunteering, both physical and mental. We have trained staff and volunteers in skills that will help them to continue to manage the reserve into the future.
Benefits to Heritage & Landscape
As a result of the project, the sensitive habitats at Flitwick Moor are now better managed, for example by the introduction of grazing to parts of the reserve. The repairs to the mill leat have greatly improved the condition of that part of the reserve – prior to work being carried out it was excessively wet, making grazing impossible and altering the vegetation of the compartment. The condition of the reserve continues to improve due to the management work carried out as part of the project.
Flitwick Moor is a key site in the wider landscape of Greensand Country, and links with other areas of important habitat locally. Thus, enhancements to the reserve have a wider effect through the landscape.
Challenges & Lessons Learnt
Managing a complex project on a complex, sensitive site over several years meant that priorities altered, and some things that were a priority stopped being so – and vice versa. Being flexible and recognising changes needed sooner rather than later meant variations could be requested to meet the greatest need.
Covid was an unexpected challenge, particularly for community work such as a visitor survey – using technology enabled us to deliver the work in a different way.
“The project has been a fantastic opportunity to make much needed infrastructure improvements to one of the most important wetland sites in the region.”