Nature conservation: Management plan for Padworth Common


Nature conservation: Management plan for Padworth Common (Dartford Warbler).

Overall Summary of management plan:

Policy statement and Background Preamble:

Padworth common nature reserve was previously owned by the west Berkshire county council. But in 2005 the land manamgement was acquired by the Buckinghamshire, and Oxford Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) in 2005 (Fort, 2013). The Main overall policy for this land is “to Ensure these sites continue to thrive both in terms of their significant wildlife interest and for the many local people who regularly use and enjoy them”. This was a statement given by the west Berkshire executive member for the environment Councillor Hilary Cole (Fort, 2013).


""Pathworth common is located between Aldermaston and Burghfield Common about 9 miles outside the city of reading (Jeffery, 2004). The land is currently owned by The West Berkshire County Council, as said before it is now managed but BBOWT since 2005 (Jeffery, 2004). The land is 30ha of open wet, dry and humid lowland heath with small sections of oak woodland, there is also a few large seasonal ponds and one that is permanently filled (Wallington, 2013). The Boundaries of Padworth common are to the south a privately owned field that and a sand and gravel quarry. And to the north east and the boundaries are defined by Old warren and Hatch farm. The western boundry is defined the small hamlet of Padworth Common.

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Management and infrastructure

For the management for a lowland heath area like padworth common, there needs to be a set of objectives crucial to the infrastructure of the scheme to manage the whole area and the all the individual features in it. The first is a very generalised objective and covers as many of the features benefits in one goal this is to encourage the restoration and health of lowland heathland to retain the ecological value of Padworth heath (Westcombe, n.d.). The other three objectives are more constrained in the features that they benefit. The first is the have grazing at the site to monitor and manage the growth of the heath, This will majorly benefit the ground nesting birds like the nightjar. The second plan is to have regulations and management for the public and the nightjar population to reduce disturbance, this is primarily aimed and nightjars and nesting birds to minimise disturbance and help promote nest production (Westcombe, n.d.). Finally the 3rd management project is the control the spread and removing strands of bracken, this is to reduce competition with the local heathland plants and improve the biodiversity of the plant life in the area. The legal constraints for this area is that Lowland heathland areas all over Britain are under the protection of the wildlife and countryside act of 1981 and is notified as SSSI (Westcombe, n.d.).

Compartments or zones

The area of Padworth common is divided into 3 different zones; Open heathland, oak forest and seasonal/permanent ponds;

  • Open heathland are open landscapes commonly dominated by heathers, gorse and has a few sliver birch tress spaced in the area. There are 3 different types of heath dependent on their soil moisture content wet heath occur on high water tables, dry heath is abundant in free draining soils. Heath is important for over 5000 invertebrates that are crucial to the food chain of this ecosystem (Countryside Info, n.d.).
  • Oak woodland is a broad leaf woodland highly occupied by English oak, sessile oak or hybrids between the two. The oak woodland is highly established woodland as a resource basis for building and fuel. The oak woodland is also a representation of the climax vegetation in the southwest of Britain where Padworth common is located (North Dervon Government, n.d.).
  • The seasonal pounds can support a vital ecosystem for many specialised pond species. This coupled with that a large number of rare species has been linked with the seasonal pond which makes these one of the highest management aims of Padworth common (The Ponds Conservation Trust, n.d.).
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Enviromental information

The physical aspects of the heath are that it is a mosaic of wet damp and dry habitats. The type of habitat is found on poor acidic soils in wet mild climates below 300m of altitude. Th biological features of this site are the many species that the heathland can accomidate from the greyling butterfly to the rare great crested newt (English Nature, 2002). This is due to the many niches available for the animals to occupy; the seasonal pounds are a rich source of nuitrients and support many rare species. The open heath which is occupied by many ground nesting birds such as the nightjar. The gorse bushes are used by the Dartford warbler to build nest and protect themselves from predation (English Nature, 2002). Culturally lowland heath has been an important part to human agriculture for thousands of years. The Mesolithic played a great part in the expansion of the lowland heath habitat by cutting down great swathes of the woodland landscape for building material and fuels. This mass cutting of woodland had impoverished the soil but this has and a positive effect on heather ground and promotes the growth of lowland heathland (English Nature, 2002). Up until the 20th century heathland has been used in a wide range of agricultural processes such as fodder and fuel (English Nature, 2002).


""Description of site

The Padworth common nature reserve is split into two half’s divied by Bowughugrst Road. The heathland is located in the centre of each area while the Oakland is defines the boundaries of the nature reserve. The pounds are locates towards the south west corner of the southern half of the reserve.

Conformation and evaluation of features

Pathworth has many features and species that make this a site of National importance. Species such as the nightjar, the Dartford warbler and the Grayling butterflies (Wallington, 2013). Each of these will have a certain factors that can affect the species success and survival such as; the road that passes through the reserve, the seasonal ponds, and the growth of bracken.

This plan focuses on the Dartford warbler and the key features that effect these are gorse coverage and heathland health (RSPB, 2014). The management of this species is desperately needed due to the harsh winters that have been occurring recently and that there are only1-2 breeding pairs in pad worth (Defra, n.d.). for this species to thrive and stabilise and even increase in population size drastic action is needed to preserve this native bird species.

The Dartford warbler (Sylvia undata)

Factors Effecting the Dartford warbler

There at many factors that affects the breeding success and survival rates of the Dartford warbler. The main 2 factors are the amount of gorse in an area, disturbance and Availability of food.

  • Gorse has a huge effect on the Dartford warbler; this is due to the warbler uses the gorse as nesting material. This is because the benefits it has as protection from predators by being a heavy dense shrub and makes its hard from predators to access (RSPB, 2012).
  • Disturbance has been shown in recent study to majorly effect warbler fecundity. A study has shown that if 13-16 people walk through a heathland area within an hour this can seriously disrupt the breeding patterns of birds and will prevent multiple broods of warblers (Murison, et al., 2007).

Objectives for the feature:

The objectives laid out for this management plan are in priority order;

  • The main objective for this animal is to maintain the already stable population in the management site of Padworth common.
  • If at all possible our secondary objective is to even increase the number of breeding pairs in Padworth common from 2 breeding pairs to 4.
  • The thirds and least priority objective is that if we can get successful breeding pairs to Padworth we could then export the juveniles into other areas to increase the number of breeding pairs in other heathland habitats.
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Current condition of feature:

  • The current condition of the Dartford warbler in Europe is that there are 2,025,546-3,635,791 breeding pairs. 75% of the breeding pairs are thought to be breeding in spain. The population is general stable in Europe (Defra, n.d.). There are certain areas of Spain where the Dartford warbler has been seen in a sustained decline since the 1970’s. Fluctuations are not uncommon in this bird (Defra, n.d.).
  • The current condition of the bird internationally is near threatened according to the IUCN red list. (IUCN, 2012)
  • Nationally this bird has been awarded an amber status under the RSPB classification system (RSPB, 2014). The main population of the warbler are in the south and south west of Britain, with a small population in the south east of Britain (RSPB, 2014). The last estimated minimum of breeding pairs in the UK is 1,600-1,890 (Defra, n.d.).

Monitoring projects:

To monitor the bird populations there are two ways in which this can be done;

  • The first is to let the public and volunteers are able to monitor the birds this can be accomplished through education and a growing interest in the local bird populations. The main disadvantage to this method is that this may increase disturbance of the birds.
  • Key sites can be pinpointed which can be monitored by the park wardens and wildlife trust employee’s this will reduce the amount of disturbance to the breeding birds and still achieve rewarding results. The only flaw with this method is if the bird numbers become higher it may be hard to identify all the birds.

Management projects:

These are the four management project that will be used to help increase and stabilise the population of the Dartford warbler.

  • Introducing grazing, this is active grazing of livestock on the heathland areas to stop the overgrowth of a particular plant species.
  • Coppicing, this is the cutting of the old parts of gorse to promote new regrowth promoting healthier and denser shrubs.
  • Tree felling, this is done by hand (chainsaw) and the roots dug up to stop the regrowth of the trees. The logs will then be burnt or sold to companies.
  • Bracken removal, this can be done by spraying herbicide on the infected areas thus eradicating of the plant. This is typically done in the summer months due to the plant being at maximum growth.
  • A timetable showing the priority and timescale of projects;

Management Process Timescale



Tree felling

Once every two years


Scrub coppacing

Once a year


Random mowing/ grazing (if possible)

Once a year


Remove turf

Once a year


Signs designating paths for walkers



Designating specific sites for dogs

Within 5 years


Justification of project:

The Justification of these methods is as follows;

  • Introduced grazing, this helps promote and uneven ages (mosaic) of the heathland. This maximises the biodiversity of the area due to many species requiring different ages of bracken to survive. This is ideal for the Dartford warbler for its food supply of invertebrates which need the heather for their survival (Hampshire County Council, 2011).
  • Coppicing, this promoted regrowth of the older gorse. Typically the Dartford warbler prefers younger gorse, this is because it is much denser and provide more camouflage and protection of the nest site from predators. Therefore the coppicing of older dead parts of the plant promotes these parts to grow back into thick Bracken which the Dartford warbler needs for nesting (Hampshire County Council, 2011).
  • Tree felling, the felling of trees such as birch helps the regrowth of the open heathland which is advantageous to many species such as the Dartford warbler. The warbler needs these open spaces of heath to be able to catch the invertebrates and feed (Hampshire County Council, 2011).
  • Bracken removal, this is crucial in the survival of any woodland. The dense mate cause by this plant will shade out any other plants. So in vast numbers this is very detrimental to the whole heathland ecosystem. With control and management this increases the biodiversity of the area allowing other plant life to thrive (Hampshire County Council, 2011).

Works Cited

Berkshire Heathland, 1998. Berkshire Heathland Biodiversity Action Plan, s.l.: s.n.

Countryside Info, n.d. What Is Heathland?. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 10 3 2014].

English Nature, 2002. Lowland Heathland A Cultural And Endangerd Landscape, Peterborough: English Nature.

Fort, L., 2013. Get Reading. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 10 3 2014].

IUCN, 2012. IUCN redlist (Dartford Warbler). [Online] Available at: [Accessed 10 3 2014].

Jeffery, O., 2004. Padworth Common Proposed Local Nature Reserve. s.l., s.n.

Murison, G. et al., 2007. Habitat type determines the effects of disturbance on the breeding productivity of the dartford warbler Sylvia undata. Ibis, Volume 149, pp. 16-26.

North Dervon Government, n.d. Oak Woodland. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 10 3 2014].

RSPB, 2012. RSPB (Gorse). [Online] Available at: [Accessed 10 3 2014].

RSPB, 2014. RSPB (Dartford Warbler). [Online] Available at: [Accessed 10 3 2014].

The Ponds Conservation Trust, n.d. Good Wilflife Ponds. [Online] Available at: wildlife ponds.pdf [Accessed 10 3 2014].

Wallington, A., 2013. Natural England. [Online] [Accessed 10 3 2014].

Westcombe, n.d. Management Of Environmental Features Specific Options, Prescriptions And Indicators Of Success, s.l.: s.n.