Common reed (Phragmites australis) is Britain’s tallest grass and can grow to three metres tall!
Most wetland plants are adapted to live either in salt water or fresh water but reeds are amazing plants because they can cope with both salt water and fresh water, as is the case on the two ponds at Siddick.
A reedbed is a wetland area dominated by stands of common reed where the water table is at or above ground level for most of the year. Reedbeds tend to incorporate areas of open water and ditches although they can also be associated with small areas of wet grassland and damp woodland known as “carr”. They may be brackish and tidal, but the majority are freshwater and either riverine or in waterlogged depressions.
Home to many
Reedbeds are amongst the most important habitats for birds in the UK. They support a distinctive assemblage of breeding birds including six nationally rare Red Data Birds. (Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Crane, Cetti’s Warbler, Savi’s Warbler and Bearded Tit). However, they area a threatened habitat as the land on which they depend is often in demand for agriculture.
The reedbed at Siddick Pond is the largest in Cumbria and supports several specialist reed-dwelling birds such as Reed Warbler (spring/summer), Water Rail (all year) and Bittern (autumn/winter). Other species such as Sedge Warbler (spring/summer) and Reed Bunting (all year) prefer a combination of reeds and willow scrub. Another special sight at Siddick is the large flocks of Starlings – called ‘murmurations’ – that can often be see in the autumn and winter, wheeling in the sky before pouring into the reedbeds to roost. Many insects such as moths, beetles and snails also depend on reedbeds.
Over time, reedbeds naturally dry out as plant litter builds up; scrub begins to colonise and eventually woodland will develop if left unmanaged. This is called natural succession. However, for many years reedbeds have been cut and managed to produce reeds for thatching the roofs of houses and basket making. Continuing this form of management keeps the habitat in good condition, providing a home for the special wildlife. Today, reedbeds play an important role in water treatment processes: they can be used for filtering sewage from water, and buffering pollutants from agricultural and urban land.
Walking through the reeds that are taller than you, hearing the birds sing and the wind rustle the leaves is a magical experience!