Devon Reds re-introduced to Pebblebed Heaths for environmental sustainability

PUBLISHED: 17:00 05 September 2018

© Guy Newman. 17.08.2018 Pebblebed Heaths

© Guy Newman. 17.08.2018 Pebblebed Heaths

© Guy Newman

Grazing cattle have been reintroduced to parts of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths to help the environment more sustainably.

Some 40 Red Ruby Devons are among the animals now grazing at Hawkerland Common, near Colaton Raleigh, joining 80 beef cattle and ponies already at home elsewhere on the heaths.

New cattle grids have been built to help manage the cattle while keeping the need for additional fencing to a minimum.

The area is managed by the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, and its operations manager Paul Swain said: “Wandering cattle is reminiscent of an old-fashioned, traditional era of land management, but it’s the most effective way of managing an open landscape like the Pebblebed Heaths where there is a lot of gorse and healthier.

“This type of terrain is suited to hardy breeds of cattle such as the Red Ruby which is adapted to grazing rougher vegetation.

“Grazing on heathland such as this helps to create a mosaic of micro-habitats with small areas of short vegetation and open ground which support a wide variety of insects and other animals. It also suppresses scrub and bracken.

“Because the cattle graze gradually and continually, there are also benefits in mitigating the effects of atmospheric nitrogen and phosphorus deposition.”

Susan and David Smith have lived along the road where the grids have been installed for more than a decade and have welcomed the return of the cattle.

“It’s the most wonderful sight to see animals grazing naturally,” said Mrs Smith.

“They’re helping to manage the heaths naturally rather than the land having to be managed artificially by people and machines. The cattle are doing a fantastic job.”

The installation of the two cattle grids at Hawkerland means the animals can make use of the entire 80-hectare section of common, which is dissected by a narrow road, expanding their grazing zone.

Following a consultation process in 2009, planning permission for permanent fencing around the common was approved in 2012. This work was funded by the government’s countryside stewardship while the cattle grids, installed following consultation with Devon County Council, were funded by Clinton Devon Estates.

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