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CROW (Conserve Reading on Wednesdays)
Wednesday, 6th October 2010
Grimsbury Castle, Hermitage ~ Rhododendron clearance

Grimsbury Castle is the site of an iron age hill fort. What battles there may have been we shall never know but in recent times its banks and ditches have be overwhelmed by a new foreign invader - rhododendron.

Last year Pang Valley volunteers started clearing the site and CROW was to continue this process, cutting all the growth back to the stump which we hope will then be treated. Unfortunately no stumps were treated last year and there is a risk that in a few years we will have to repeat the whole process.

As we were not permitted to burn the cleared material on the site, it had to be stacked and left to decay. Judging by the current state of the material cut last year, this may be a long process.

The name rhododendron comes from the Greek rhodon rose + dendron tree, and as can be seen many these where not the meek bushes common to many suburban gardens but substantial trees of a considerable age.

Rhododendron spreads by layering putting down roots wherever branches, which tend to be spreading in habit, touch the ground. The result is a tangled mass of growth with branches rooted at a number of places. Fortunately the roots on these branches are often shallow only penetrating the underlying leaf litter, and can therefore be easily removed.

A subsequent visit to the site by Pang Valley volunteers means most of the rhododendron has been removed from the banks and ditches leaving them once more clearly visible. Long may they remain so!

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This task was for the BeWILD project, a joint initiative by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC) to promote the restoration of Berkshire's semi-ancient woodlands funded by Natural England.