Reserves report

Focus on Nansineflyn Marsh
Nansmellyn Marsh is located on the eastern side of Perranporth, beside the minor road to Bolingey. It consists of 4.5 ha (11 acres) of reedbed and willow carr. Reedbeds are uncommon in the county, so it is important that areas such as Nansmellyn Marsh are maintained.

Common reed Phragmites communis is dominant here, with a variety of tall herbs interspersed, including hemp agrimony, valerian and water mint. The scattered groups of grey willow which also occur would ultimately cover the whole marsh, so they are kept in check by cutting. The willows are an important part of the marsh as they support hundreds of different invertebrates, particularly aphids and caterpillars, which are food for many of the birds living here.

Birds are best viewed from the wooden hide located at the end of the raised boardwalk on the eastern side of the marsh. Species sighted include reed, willow, grasshopper and sedge warblers, water rail and the rare Cetti's warbler. Keys for the hide can be purchased from the Trust. Over a hundred species of lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) have been recorded here. Many of these rely on areas where young reed grows, or open sunny patches alongside the boardwalk. A study carried out last year using tennis balls as artificial nests revealed that harvest mice breed at the marsh.

The management at Nansmellyn Marsh must strike a fine balance so that the requirements of all the species are taken into account. A programme of rotational reed cutting is carried out across the marsh. The rotation ensures that some areas of reed are cut annually whereas others are cut on a much longer cycle.

Through liaison with the Trewortha Farm Education Centre, and with practical assistance from the Cornwall Young Archaeologists, much of the reed cut from Nansmellyn Marsh is being put to good use as thatching material for reconstructions of Bronze Age roundhouses. Each autumn the marsh bustles with activity as reeds are gathered, sorted, bundled up and stacked, ready for transportation to the Bronze Age village. Whilst our reeds from Nansmellyn Marsh are travelling back in time, our active management continues to ensure that the wildlife of the marsh is maintained for many years into the future.

Victoria Scott

Reed cutting and sorting at Nansmellyn Marsh.
Photo: Victoria Scott

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