The Forest is one of the most important areas for wildlife in the UK, supporting habitats and species of national and European significance. Since the reduction of natural grazing animals, the Forest saw a decline in species such as the small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly, which was previously found at over 50 sites in the Forest. Sadly, it is now only found on two nature reserves due to the loss of open habitat.
This project has successfully helped conserve and enhance wildlife in the Forest by creating areas of open habitat, especially heathland, maintaining it through grazing using a variety of livestock.
The project created improved heathland habitat which evolved from the conservation grazing: creating and linking open habitat over a large area in the Dean. The expanded open habitat sits within a wider mosaic of habitats - scrub, wetland, woodland and copse.
Three nature reserves are at the heart of this, currently managed by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust: Wigpool, Woorgreens and Edgehills. These reserves were selected as a focus for the project because they already have established heathland, with wildlife that benefits the most from the introduction of conservation grazing to link existing habitats.
We fenced about 80 hectares of land in order to create habitats and enhance them through grazing using ponies and cattle. Within the permanent fenced area, temporary fencing is being used to divide the site into compartments to allow grazing levels to be manipulated.
All of this continuing work on the reserves is quite reliant on volunteers so if you like heathland, or you like ponies, we'd love to hear from you!
There is a wide range of activity to get involved in from clearing heathland to monitoring and recording wildlife in the area.
Visit the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust Conservation Grazing page to find out more.