When the course was built in 1992 a series of woodlands was planted around the boundaries but little planting was done within the course. Since 2001 some 4000 trees have been planted in copses of 10 to 40 trees to enhance the golf challenge and to improve the course landscaping. It is felt that sufficient new copses are now in place and only some strengthening in selected areas is needed. Each copse has been designed to include a few hardwoods in strategic positions and a surround of softwoods or nursery trees: in the long term the hardwoods only will remain.
The weather each year is different and has mixed effects: newly planted trees and bushes can suffer from drought, while established trees grow strongly during wet conditions. The predominantly clay soils ensure that even in the driest conditions there is always some moisture available to the roots and there have been relatively few failures. Where individuals have failed they are replaced in January most years. Wild cherries on the course have suffered from disease, also rowans and more recently alders.
Culling of trees in the established woodlands is on-going: as the trees grow, their canopies come together and undergrowth is shaded out. The silver birches have done their job as nursery trees and can be progressively removed. Some of the scots pines, where they are within a woodland, are becoming too dominant and are interfering with the growth of other species: they too can be removed. The hardwoods such as oak, ash and hornbeam are now well established with plenty of good specimens.
Before the golf course was built in 1992, the land was used for farming, in particular for improved pasture, and some potatoes. Both these activities needed copious amounts of fertiliser; in addition the sub-soil is clay, which tends to retain fertilisers. It is this legacy of high fertility which causes our long rough to be so deep and thick.
Long grass creates perspective and visual interest. It provides protective cover for wild animals, birds, and plants which thrive in a relatively undisturbed environment. The different weeds and grasses support a wide variety of wildlife, including insects, amphibians, small mammals and ground-nesting birds. In general little management is required on long grass remote from the line of play apart from a periodic hay harvest and control of certain undesirable weeds such as ragwort, thistles and docks.
Long grasses are valuable from an ecological point of view but are undesirable close to the line of play. It is our policy that areas of long grass close to the line of play should be thinned by repeated cutting, baling and then by scarification. Such thinned grass will enable golfers to find their balls quickly and allow them a fair shot in trying to return to the fairway. At the same time it is hoped that thinning of the sward will give the opportunity for wild flowers to become established.
Carries have been introduced in front of the tees on a number of holes. The additional areas of long grass make an interesting natural feature and are ecologically beneficial; once they have been thinned, mowing can be reduced to one cut per year in place of the present once a week in summer.
Where copses are close to the line of play, they are mown as cut rough. The penalty of playing from within the copse need not be compounded by also playing from long grass. However where copses are away from the line of play there is no reason why they should be mown.
2018 Update - Wildflowers provide both visual and ecological benefits to grass and woodland areas. In 2017 in liaison with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, a soil analysis was carried out to determine the suitability of designated planting areas.
The successful introduction of wildflower species is notoriously difficult as they prefer poor soils with few nutrients which allow them to compete against more dominant grass and weed varieties. Our Course and its arable heritage, is still fairly nutrient rich with a heavy clay base, we are therefore preparing suitable seed bed conditions to enable planting around August depending on weather conditions.
The cooperation with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust provides us with monitored and locally harvested wild flower varieties together with ongoing liaison and maintenance.
Some Members have already kindly donated suitable wildflower seeds and we would welcome any others should they have access to suitable varieties.
Many wild flowers already exist on the course including black meddick, scarlet pimpernel, red campion, willow herb, ragwort, poppy, mayweed, cuckoo flower, orange balsam and cuckoo pint to name but a few.
Various attempts have been made to encourage other varieties. Bluebells, wild cyclamen, cowslips and aconites have been planted in the peripheral woodlands which are now sufficiently mature to shade out competing grasses. Snowdrops have been planted along the fringes of hedges.
A wildflower allotment has been cultivated near to the 17th tee and planted with a mixture of annuals and perennials. The annuals (corn chamomile, cornflower, corncockle, corn poppy and corn marigold) have done well in their first year and it is hoped that they will be self-seeding for the future. The perennials (knapweed, meadow buttercup, meadowsweet, red campion, ribwort, plantain, selfheal, St John’s wort, teasel, white campion and yarrow) have yet to appear.
A number of orchids have also been introduced, including the southern marsh.