The Blackdown Hills Trust

Cattle Grazing Project

The Trust has recently agreed to support cattle grazing in the areas of woodland   along the Northern Scarp of the Blackdown Hills which were cleared as part of the Neroche Project

1. Background to the original project
One of the key concerns in the minds of the originators of the Neroche Scheme was always that of sustainability. There was little point in enhancing the landscape unless steps were taken to ensure that the effects were long lasting and could be effectively managed after the project had run its course.  The largest part of the Project focussed on the natural heritage of the Landscape and was concerned with habitat restoration in the Neroche, Quants and Culm Davy areas. Large swathes of coniferous forest have been cleared to make way for open heathland and woodland pasture.  This work has been aimed at regeneration and habitat diversification by returning the landscape to its earlier form.  Form shown in aerial surveys conducted in the 1940s.  This work was achieved through selective felling and coppicing while at the same time care was taken not to compromise the secluded and wooded nature of this area of The Blackdowns.  

Cattle on Ruttersleigh summer 08

The effect of this strategy, although initially rather shocking, soon revealed that buried below the forest floor  lay a myriad of flower and grass seeds which soon germinated and allowed the reintroduction of various natural fauna, in particular rare butterflies including the marsh fritillary and wood white; and birds such as the nightingale and wood warbler.  However, if felled areas are simply left alone more than grass and flowers grows.  Brambles, bracken and general scrub can quickly reduce a felled area to an impenetrable tangle of secondary woodland scrub. The notion of low intensity grazing on the newly cleared area was, to say the least, innovative. It has been tried in Savernack and The New Forests, but they are very different locations.    Cattle were chosen because they had the potential to produce a valuable end product – beef.   After much research a traditional breed, English Longhorn was selected because of their ability to eat almost any plants – although it has since been discovered that they turn their noses up at all but the newest sweetest brambles! They were also chosen because they are hardy and could thrive for at least seven months of the year in the forest and for their placid and docile temperaments.  The latter being an important quality given that they would often be in close proximity to walkers, riders and their dogs.

After felling had been completed cleared areas of the forest were fenced and rider friendly gates were installed where paths crossed fence lines.   Arrangements were made with a local veterinary practice to inspect the cattle on a regular basis to ensure that they were healthy and well cared for.  A local herdsman entered into an agreement with the project to manage the herd.   

There is now a ‘forest fit for the future’ where 300 hectares of coniferous plantation have been harvested to restore pasture, heath and broadleaf woodland habitats.  Four large grazing units have been established covering 246 hectares of newly opened rough grazing and open woodland. 100 + English Longhorn Cattle now graze these units.  

2. The Trust’s Involvement   
The Blackdown Hills Trust has agreed to take over the management of the grazing. As tenants of The Forestry Commission they will be managing the felled areas under The High Level Stewardship Scheme.  Two local farmers have been contracted to manage the cattle, while The Forestry Commission, who still technically own the cattle, will retain an overall responsibility for their welfare.
As a Trust we feel that this is one way that we can make a valuable contribution to the sustainability of the work initiated by The Neroche Scheme. During the summer months you will be able to find the cattle in the Forest and see for yourself how their   munching and chomping help keeps the landscape in good heart so that plants and fauna alike can continue to proliferate and thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Blackdown Hills Trust is a company limited by guarantee and registered in England no. 07181053.  Registered Charity no. 1138327.  Registered Office: c/o park Farm

Wellington Somerset TA21  9NP

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blackdown Hills Trust is a company limited by guarantee and registered in England no. 07181053. Registered Charity no . 1138327 The Registered Office : c/o Park Farm Wellington Somerset TA219NP
© 2017 The Blackdown Hills Trust - all rights reserved

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