The Forest has always been a mixture of open habitats and woodland and it is this mosaic of different habitats that benefits many species of wildlife. Many of us who live in the area will remember there used to be thousands of grazing sheep in the Forest but after Foot and Mouth the numbers of grazing sheep were drastically reduced. As a direct consequence of this there are not enough grazing animals currently to maintain open habitats.
To help improve the maintenance of our open habitats within the Forest of Dean a number of old grazing areas and newly identified grazing sites are being offered from July 2019 to potential graziers.
We appreciate that you may have several questions about this. Here are more details about the grazing, listed as key FAQs that we hope you find helpful:
All the potential grazing sites are located within the Forest of Dean: Edgehills, Ruspidge Halt, Church Bank above Valley Road in Cinderford, Bilson Green, and a section of Awre’s Glow, Plump Hill, Brandrick’s Green, Milkwall/Ellwood, Northern Quarter, Serridge, Parkend, Clearwell Meend, Two Bridges, Yorkley Bottom and Bream Tufts.
The Forest needs grazing animals to keep some specific habitats open to benefiting and attracting a range of associated wildlife.
Any grazing animals introduced to the Forest are checked for disease first, so, for example, the Highland Cattle recently brought to Woorgreens were checked for TB before they were allowed on to the GWT nature reserve.
We do not expect these new grazing opportunities to impede the current sheep commoning within the Forest because conservation grazing and commoning can work together in different parts of the Forest. Currently sheep commoning is taking place around these areas and we welcome involvement for more sheep grazing on some of the areas listed in this project. Though the fenced areas in Woorgreens, Edgehills and Wigpool are not currently suitable for grazing by Forest sheep because there is insufficient grass there, in time, this habitat will become more palatable for sheep grazing.
The new grazing areas under consideration have been made possible with funding and support from Forestry England, Natural England, the Countryside Stewardship scheme, European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Foresters’ Forest, a National Lottery Heritage Funded Landscape Partnership Programme to raise awareness and participation in the built, natural and cultural heritage in the Forest of Dean.
The Foresters’ Forest programme, with Forestry England and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, have been working over the last few years to use National Lottery Heritage Funds to restore wildlife rich areas with conservation grazing at Woorgreens, Edgehills and Wigpool. These selected areas of the Forest are prime wildlife reserves and need larger animals such as Exmoor ponies and Highland cattle to graze the dense and rank vegetation that has grown up over the years to restore lowland heathland habitat. In time, these areas could also become suitable areas to graze sheep.
The length of time that stock is present on site may vary depending upon the stock type, the season and the habitat management requirement, so some sites will be short term (e.g. two months) and others could be longer.
There will probably need to be a combination of cattle, ponies and sheep at various sites and could possibly expand to include goats. Different types of stock provide different grazing pressure on vegetation and a combination of grazing animals helps achieve improved vegetation diversity.
Most of these sites are relatively small areas, so wildlife has free movement across the majority of the Forest. The fence lines are regularly monitored.
The most risk for wildlife relating to stock fencing are the dangers associated with large mammals being trapped and caught in the wire. Various reports of jumping deer being caught in the fence have resulted in us modifying the design of fencing at Woorgreens and Ruspidge Halt which will be implemented soon at Edgehills and Wigpool. The design of the fence line in those areas has been approved by all stakeholders, and has been modified to have only one strand of barbed wire at the top, which is pig ringed to the top of the stock netting. The barbed wire is necessary to deter cattle and ponies from rubbing on the fence line and pushing the fence over or causing it to sag, thus reducing its effectiveness. The netting which is folded over the barbed wire and the top two ‘rows’ of stock netting is designed to prevent deer from catching their back feet in the fence when they jump over it. In order to maintain the height of the fence line, two strands of barbed wire are located at the bottom of the stock netting. This will deter wild boar from trying to squeeze underneath but allow access of small mammals.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is a charity that manages 60 nature reserves around the county, organises events to help people get closer to local wildlife, and runs projects which support communities to enjoy being outside. Our staff and volunteers work to connect Gloucestershire’s wildlife and wild places, improve river habitats and reduce the risk of flooding.
Development Fund Wild Towns Project
The ERDF Wild Towns Project will create new and improve existing habitats in and around Cinderford, in Ruspidge Halt, Church Bank and Bilson Green. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is working with the local landowners, Forestry England, Forest of Dean District Council, Severn Trent Water and Severn Rivers Trust to deliver this part of the project. It aims to improve biodiversity through grazing, creation of wetlands and tree and grassland management. For more information please visit:https://www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk/erdf-wild-towns
The Foresters’ Forest is a £2.5m National Lottery Heritage Fund Landscape Partnership Programme to raise awareness and participation in the built, natural and cultural heritage in the Forest of Dean. The programme consists of 38 exciting projects being delivered by 32 partner organisations and community groups. At Woorgreens, the Foresters’ Forest programme is creating a range of connected habitats, consisting of grassland, heathland and open water pools. Find out more at www.forestersforest.uk or follow us onTwitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. See www.hlf.org.uk and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Forestry England is the lead partner for Foresters’ Forest. Forestry England manages and cares for the nation’s 1,500 woods and forests, with over 230 million visits per year. As England’s largest land manager, we shape landscapes and are enhancing forests for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to grow. For more information visit forestryengland.uk
Forestry England is an agency of the Forestry Commission.
A tour of these areas is being planned for 4th August 2019to help those interested in this grazing opportunity find out more.
To register your interest in the tour and to find out more about grazing your animals in these areas please contact Helen Chick, Communications & Community Engagement Officer for Foresters’ Forest by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 0300 067 4397
You might be surprised what you find!
From creating habitats for our wildlife or improving our waterways, to recording oral histories or finding old photos, there’s always something going on to get involved in!