Grazing plan for heath

PUBLISHED: 13:31 21 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:42 10 June 2010

RARE breed ponies and cattle are to graze common land near Budleigh Salterton in an attempt to encourage wildlife. The East Devon

RARE breed ponies and cattle are to graze common land near Budleigh Salterton in an attempt to encourage wildlife.

The East Devon Pebblebed Heath Conservation Trust is in negotiations to graze the animals at the Dalditch plantation, as part of its sustainable management programme.

The trust said grazing other parts of the Clinton Devon Estate land with animals, including Woodbury Common, has proved successful. To protect the livestock, the trust will erect a fence, but install bridleway gates for access for walkers.

Commons warden Bungy Williams said: "Ten years ago a conifer plantation was felled to make way for a mosaic of lowland heath. This proved to be very successful, with both flora and fauna flourishing.

"Rare species such as the southern damsel fly, Dartford warbler and nightjars can now be found there.

"However, to stop trees re-establishing themselves and to prevent the gorses and bracken taking-over, the area has had to be managed with spraying and with machinery, including tractors and cutters.

"Now, as part of a trial, the trust is talking to rare breed pony and cattle farmers about introducing livestock to do this management naturally, by grazing.

"Although we will need to reinstate the dilapidated fence, we do not intend to stop the community from enjoying the heaths, so we are planning to introduce bridleway gates to give people access.

"This means that people will still have free use of the area and, at the same time, see our grazing scheme at work.

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