The conservation volunteers have played their part in the restoration of this leisure and picnic area by erecting a temporary perimeter fence. The Green is the focal point at Ashridge and consequently suffers from soil compaction because of the foot-fall from an ever increasing number of visitors.
Soil compaction is the physical consolidation of the soil by an applied force that destroys structure, reduces porosity, limits water and air infiltration, and increases resistance to root penetration resulting in a poor plant growth. This was first evident with the two oak trees which brought about the building of the dead-hedge two years ago.
The Green has seen better days when visitors were few and far between – the numbers have increased dramatically in the last fifty years. It is a SSSI site protected by Natural England because of the iron age burial tombs at the centre, and improvements like artificial drainage would be forbidden. The recent heavy rains have flooded parts of the area and the expected throng at Easter would have caused further damage with hazards for the public – a quagmire.
This was a considerable operation undertaken in variable weather conditions. Over one hundred wooden posts were erected to support the rope barrier, replacing some of the existing rough posts which are a common sight at Ashridge protecting grass areas from traffic. The new wooden posts and ropes are not very sympathetic at the moment, sticking out like sore thumbs, but they will soon weather and blend in well with the landscape.
There will be a small inconvenience to visitors having to make a detour on their way to and from Duncombe Terrace, but the barrier is already having a beneficial effect by diverting bikers and horse riders off the grass and around the Green. There is no legal right-of-way for riders across the grass but this is difficult to enforce. They create their own “desire lines” – convenient pathways across the site, which run in front of the Monument causing problems when the building is open to the public.
The Trust are taking advice from the neighbours at the Golf Club on the best way forward. This may involve the use of an organic fertilizer along with mechanical spiking to improve aeration, resulting in the need for more regular grass cutting – a job for the volunteers! The site is an unimproved grassland, never ploughed and supporting naturally occurring grasses, so it probably would not be reseeded.