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Cliff path cutting begins for 2024

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Tuesday 09 April 2024

The 2024 programme of vegetation cutting along the verges of the island's cliff path has started at town, heading west.

Agriculture, Countryside and Land Management Services (ACLMS) is responsible for managing this maintenance programme, which covers the 28.5 miles of cliff paths between La Vallette and Fort Pezeries, ensuring they are cut twice a year.

The start location of the cutting schedule rotates through the cliff paths each year to ensure that areas do not get cut at exactly the same time in their growth period in succeeding years. Although it is inevitable that some plants will be cut back whilst they are still in bloom, this rotation ensures there is always a well-stocked seed bank from previous years so that future displays of spring flowers are undiminished.

The start of the first cut is decided according to weather conditions which influence the growth of plants, but in general the cut begins around April. The first cliff path cut is usually completed by mid-July. This is then repeated, and the second cut is completed by around mid-October.

The States Works team cutting the paths is very experienced and knowledgeable on the wild plants found on the cliffs and take special care of the areas where orchids and other less common plants are to be found.

As well as allowing access, cutting is also beneficial to Guernsey's biodiversity as it stops more aggressive vegetation taking over. The cliff paths have a unique place in Guernsey's biodiversity as they are home to many rare plants such as the dwarf pansy, shaggy mouse-ear hawkweed and early sandgrass.

ACLMS and States Works work with the Black-Backed Meadow Ant project to ensure this rare species has the best chance of thriving. The ant nests are marked with red flags each year between Pleinmont and Icart so that the cliff path team can give special attention to cutting around the nests. This large ant is declining and is now extinct in the UK but can be found along Guernsey's south cliffs. The intention is to increase light and air to the ants which prefer a warmer and drier habitat. This is particularly important following the exceptionally wet conditions during early spring this year. These ants thrive in permanent grassland and heathlands. Without a regular cutting regime on the cliff paths, their habitat would be lost and succeeded by scrubby vegetation.

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