You may remember a summer day in 2014 when, in hot, sunny weather, some of us started to clear away the gorse at the landward edge of Downing Point. While Gorse has beauty and wildlife value, it tends to steadily dominate the area where it grows to the exclusion of all other plant species, and thus also the insects and other wildlife that flourish in this greater plant diversity. We had been alerted to the problem by Revd. Dr Jean Cook, a Dalgety Bay botanist, who was especially concerned that we were in danger of losing some of the specialised flora of these rocky sea edge areas under a steadily advancing cover of Gorse. So, in July last year we began clearing work, exposing once again the rocks and thin soil to the rain and sun.
Here, part of the area we worked on can be seen before and after the clearing work.
Above: July 2014
Above: July 2015
While some of the gorse has started to grow again, the seeds of other plants that had lain dormant in the soil for many years responded to soil disturbance and light exposure and started to germinate. This summer we were rewarded with some of these returning plants coming into bloom.
Purple Foxglove are now growing at the base of the rocks and in the thinnest soils on top of a rocky outcrop a few hardy Harebells flowered.
The slightly deeper soils now have Bird’s-foot Trefoil and the pale soft flowers of Hare’s-foot Clover.
One year on from the work to clear the gorse, and some recovery has been achieved; there is now a selection of other plants in bloom. Of course this work is not at an end. We will have to continue this autumn, and in the following years, to make sure that the gorse does not return to smother them again.