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Thread: Stamping Down Bracken

  1. #1
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    Default Stamping Down Bracken

    I was reading the current issue of Scottish Paddler ( the magazine of the Scottish Canoe Association) this morning and came across an article advising that to try and "reclaim" camp sites we should stamp down the bracken. It explained that the breaking or bending of the stalk cause the plant to make a spurt of growth that killed it.

    I found this a strange thing to be suggesting. There were no specific areas mentioned the suggestion seemed to be that this should be done anywhere you would want to camp. Now as much as I like the idea of having plenty of places to camp I am pretty sure that such actions will be in direct breach of the access code and result in you being prohibited from camping.

    Perhaps this advise is just an extension of the "Leave nothing but footprints". The point being to leave them all over the bracken
    John

  2. #2
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    Tramping down the bracken is not a great idea. Bracken in a great host for ticks. Not my first choice of bed fellows.

    Bracken is pretty invasive though and will out compete other species.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by wayne
    Tramping down the bracken is not a great idea. Bracken in a great host for ticks. Not my first choice of bed fellows.
    Never mind the ticks the article does mention carcinogenic spores but then says these are not usually a problem in the UK, but to avoid doing your stamping in July.
    John

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    Breaking bracken doesn't really leave a very comfy camping surface as the wee bits of stalk that are still in the ground form a blunt bed of nails that poke and prod at you through the groundsheet.
    Depending on it's stage of growth you can pull the stalks out root and all which does "clear" them leaving a good pitch. You have to break/pull repeatedly for a few years though or it'll all just grow back again.

    As for whether you should or not. The couple of sites I use regularly have their fair share of bracken. On one of them we think nothing of clearing a space for a pitch but we always use the same area and I doubt the laird would be too chuffed if the general public took it upon themselves to decide what was best for his land.
    The other site is more environmentaly sensitive. Get caught clearing bracken and you could in theory end up in court for affecting the breeding area of protected insect colonies .

    Personaly I think it's something that has to be done sometimes if you really can't find a clear pitch. I think it's a tad irresponsable for a publication to recommend it as a matter of course though unless they can back it up with a list of sites where they've recieved permission from the landowner and a list of sites where it's a no-go.
    Picture yourself in a boat on a river,

  5. #5
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    I don't know enough about the merits of having swathes of bracken on your land but I do understand that it is an invasive species and the general view is that we would be better off without it.

    I saw an item on the box a year or so ago which featured a move on Dartmoor to erradicate bracken. It is known that there are no animals who will eat it and if you just dig it up you risk errosion of the sometimes thin topsoil. Their solution was to use a pony and a roller to do just what John says in his first post. Apparrently breaking the stems will help to kill the plant. But Grooveski is right, you might just get into trouble doing it on someone else's land without permission.

  6. #6
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    I am certainly not suggesting that Bracken is a good plant but it was the suggestion to kill at will I found a little worrying.

    The same goes for Rhododendron. As far as I know almost all landowners want rid of it all but I would not suggest you just cut it down without knowing for sure that it is the case for that piece of land.
    John

  7. #7
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    There aren't many merits, the stuff's a pain.
    The stalks can be used for thatching but outside of that there's not much use for acres of the stuff.

    It's an invasive species but it's a local invasive species so fits into the realm of "that's nature for you". It's got it's place and has as much right to be there as we do.
    It forms a ground canopy during summer. Removing that WILL affect the ecology of that patch of ground.

    That's interesting about potential soil erosion, hadn't heard of that.

    If someone wants shot of bracken there are procedures, grants and all manner of ways to go about it but that's for the owner and SNH to arrange as they see fit. Same with Rhododendron, it's none of the public's business(unless they feel like raising concern through accepted channels).

    Protected areas may be few and far between but I assure you that landowners feel diffently about things when they're managing a SAC or SSSI. All it takes is a few unusual insects or wildflowers before the prospect of strangers making themselves at home and "managing for themselves" is not a pleasant one.

    I likely sound a bit over the top but as a self-confessed tree hugger I'm not keen on seeing anyone messing around. Clear a bit of bracken and pitch your tent by all means, but announce publicly that everyone should be doing their bit to keep pitches clear and it's just encouraging faffing about with someone elses property. I just don't like the idea.

    Listing the campsites with the owners permission and declaring war on the stuff would be a whole different matter. Good luck and fair play.
    Picture yourself in a boat on a river,

  8. #8
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    Default WW2 - The Russian Steppes

    Slash and burn !!

  9. #9
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    That's the spirit . I'll give you a shout when the top field's getting cleared.
    Picture yourself in a boat on a river,

  10. #10
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    In days gone by the bracken would have been trampled by the higher numbers of cattle, nowadays it out competes other flora, and is highly invasive. Personally in the absence of a compelling reason not to I would happily trample a camp site and a bit more for good measure, we're not going to endanger the stuff.

  11. #11
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    incidentally i think rhodedendrons should be bloody illegal.

  12. #12
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    I spent a few years in the forestry industry and spent many a day whipping bracken with a steel rod often my feet and legs to. also cutting rohdodendron down the size of pine trees we would then return in the spring and spray the new growth with a systemic weed killer which the soft new growth would take easily most of this was done for the woodland trust as they were both considered to invasive.

  13. #13
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    Just to clarify(because I feel a bit of a tit that folk have picked me up wrong):
    I'm not trying to say bracken isn't invasive, just that the clearing of it should be carried out in a proper manner directed by the landowner and environmental bodies.

    All I was trying to point out is:

    Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004
    27 Offences in relation to nature conservation orders

    (1) Any person who carries out, or causes or permits to be carried out, a prohibited operation on any land to which a nature conservation order relates is guilty of an offence and liable-

    (a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding 40,000,
    (b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine.
    (2) It is not a defence in proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) that the carrying out of the prohibited operation did not damage any natural feature of the land to which the nature conservation order relates.

    There are a lot of wee beasties on the protected and endangered listings and unless you know for sure that none of them are living on that patch of ground then you run the risk of falling foul of the law. I just feel that this should have been mentioned in the magazine article that started this thread off.

    Map of SAC sites.
    http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-1515
    Picture yourself in a boat on a river,

  14. #14

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    Just to add a little to this topic, bracken is invasive and in most semi-natural habitats a right royal pain in the preverbial. BUT in some places, more commonly England and Wales rather than Scotland (if memory serves), bracken is essential for conservation. usually this is as cover for the common dog violet the food plant of colonies of rare fritillary butterflies and is actively managed for that purpose. So careful where you slash and burn, but if there is no such interest then rolling of the bracken will give the desired effects although this needs repeating in the same place year on year

  15. #15

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    Bracken is as hard as nails i doubt bending the stalks will stop it!

  16. #16

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    Unfortunatley due to their extensive rhizomes pulling bracken just make it fight harder and store more energy in the rhizomes, so the method of rolling is better. Here the stems are broken but not severed, close to the ground level. The plant will still put energy into growth and maturing the present stalk, although this is not achieved due to the broken stem. and therefore the rhizome will eventually be depleted. As stated in the post above this is the best practice known but needs repeating year after year after year

  17. #17
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    As far as I'm aware, the oldest known bracken plants are about 1400 years old (and measure over 450m in diameter), but the establishment of a new plant is a relatively rare event. So should we try to set up some areas to safegaurd the most ancient of these plants to allow us to eradicate it without guilt from everywhere else?

    James G

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