Softrak-ing Across Nature Reserves

softrak, apprenticeship training, natural england, Shapwick

Apprenticeship update by Shayl Renyard

As part of my apprenticeship I received training to drive Natural England’s softrak on Shapwick NNR. The softrak was match funded through the Hertiage Lottery Fund (HLF) supported Landscape Partnership Scheme; the same scheme that funded my training placement.
It’s a great bit of kit, fun to drive and really well suited for cutting reed bed. The diesel engine powers a hydraulic system that drives the vehicles tracks and the reed cutting attachment. The tracks disperse the vehicles weight over a large area so we can access areas of the reed bed with really soft ground conditions, without getting stuck. Each year they cut different sections of the reed to create a varied age structure. This is beneficial to the wildlife and prevents the rare habitat, which many species are dependent on, from being lost through the process of succession.

Bittern birds and ducks at reeds

The softrak collects the cut material as we go so one person can cut and clear an area that would take 3 days with a whole team of volunteers, in as little as 3 hours. The saved time is extremely valuable for the reserve and has freed up both staff and volunteers to work on other projects, such as the extension of the Discovery Trail boardwalk on Shapwick Heath (also part-funded through the HLF scheme).

discovery trail boardwalk volunteers

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