Walkers and wildlife to benefit from Clinton Devon fencing plans

Fencing off chunks of East Devon’s Pebblebed Heaths and introducing grazing cattle will open up more land to the public say landowners.

East Budleigh-based Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) says the heathland, opened to the public by Lord Clinton in 1930 and under the stewardship of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, is under threat.

‘Invasive’ trees and shrubs, like the purple moor grass, have spread due to a build up of soil nutrients over 50 years.

These aggressive plants prevent more diverse plant and animal life from getting a foothold, making vast tracts of land virtually inaccessible to the public.

CDE wants to increase the ‘botanical diversity’ and open up the land and has considered the alternatives, including turf-stripping, controlled burning and mowing.

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But CDE needs a solution, which is not only more permanent, but ongoing. It has drafted plans to erect 23,208m of perimeter fencing over just under a third of the commons area, 468.96 hectares, with temporary ‘seasonal’ covering a further 70he.

These enclosures would be divided into five, three in use at any one time, covering parts of Harpford, Aylesbeare, Hawkerland, Bicton, East Budleigh, Withycombe Raleigh and Lympstone Common, and part of Woodbury Common and populated with Red Devon cattle.

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The areas would still be accessible to the public via 62 field gates, 63 bridle/pedestrian gates and eight pedestrian gates over the network.

A cattle ‘handling’ facility is also being planned, as well as drinking troughs with a piped water supply and cattle grids.

CDE director John Varley said: “The East Devon Pebblebed Heath is more than 250 million years old, but over the last 100 or we have let it go somewhat.”

He said the invasion of trees and shrubs had been seen as one of the main threats ‘for a considerable number of years’.

He said: “This will not restrict public access; if anything, continued maintenance will increase it and open up more of a much valued local resource used not only by dog walkers, horse riders, mountain bikers, model aircraft flyers but also those who wish to study the wildlife archaeology and social history of the area.

“Grazing will help to open up heathland and improve the landscape by helping to control the vegetation.”

The plans, which will be considered by the planning inspectorate, have the support of the RSPB, Natural England and the Devon Wildlife Trist among others.

The plans are on view at Budleigh Library until December 9.

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