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Hay Bridge Nature Reserve

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The John Strutt Conservation Foundation (JSCF): is a perpetual Charitable Trust, which promotes the conservation and study of wildlife, including birds, animal and insects, in their natural environment (and also any other species from time to time introduced) and the environment forming their habitat. In addition, the Foundation will undertake any activity that, in the opinion of the Trustees, is calculated to promote knowledge of and interest in such wildlife and will maintain an establishment at Kirkby Stephen and such other areas as the Trustees may think fit, which will provide facilities for:

•The conservation of such wildlife.
•The scientific study of such wildlife and its habitat.
•The dissemination of knowledge and understanding of wildlife, its habitat and conservation.
•The provision of educative recreational opportunitie

The JSCF was formed on December 9th. 1994 and confirmed as a Charity on January 24th. 1995. The two farms at Kirkby Stephen cover an area of 620 acres, which is entirely grassland. There are several small young woods and the replanting of hedges is extensive. The aims of the Foundation are to try to put the clock back to an era when farming was less intensive, before sprays and artificial fertilisers were recognised. The stone barns on the property have been renovated and repaired to encourage wildlife to use them for nesting and for insects to hibernate in. The Foundation’s aims also include the establishment of hay meadow and pastures by controlling grazing by licensees’ sheep and cattle to conform to those aims and also to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme controlled by DEFRA. The redundant farm buildings are being used and converted for industrial and agricultural uses in order to maximise income, and the vision of the Trustees is for the Foundation to be sufficiently endowed to be self-financing for present and future generations to visit and appreciate in the Upper Eden Valley.

Low Hay Bridge: which has been established as a conservation area for over 30 years, was purchased by the JSCF in January 1998 and their aim is to work in partnership with the Hay Bridge Nature Reserve Society. The long-term management plan will cover the three main ecological units of the Reserve.

The Mosses: formed over a period of 3000 years by successive layers of Sphagnum moss, and fed solely by rainwater, the raised mires of Hay Bridge, Hulleter and Rusland Mosses are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The surface has been damaged considerably in the past by peat cutting and drainage and, as the surface dries out trees start to invade (notably Scots Pine and Birch), which lower the water table further. Work is ongoing to restore Hay Bridge Moss as a raised mire with an active accreting central Sphagnum complex. 'This is being done principally by blocking the drainage ditches that cross it to prevent the rainwater running off, thereby creating favourable conditions for the Sphagnum moss and other acid, peat-forming species, and also by felling the trees on the central dome, to reduce loss of water by transpiration.

Pastures: These are an important part of the ecosystem, having a diversity of flora and providing food for a wide range of birds. Management of the grazing land will be similar to the policy at Kirkby Stephen, the aim being to enhance their diversity and improve them as habitat for voles, which are particularly important as prey for barn owls.

Woodlands: The present mix of native broadleaves will be maintained on the Reserve and where appropriate, coppicing will be undertaken on a 10-15 year rotational cycle, so that different parts of the woods are at different stages, creating habitats favourable to a wide range of species, including butterflies and moths.