Grazing Amazing Grasslands
The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire's 3 year project which seeks to conserve and enhance the diverse habitats at 7 nature reserves in Northamptonshire.
Project Updates: Oldest to latest | Latest to oldest
23/11/2011 10:02: SITA Trust funds woolly weed eaters!The sheep and cattle who help to keep Northamptonshire grasslands in top condition, along with Deefor the sheepdog, have good reason to celebrate. SITA Trust has awarded the Wildlife Trust a splendid £93,704 for its Grazing Amazing Grasslands project, through the Landfill Communities Fund. This grant will contribute to the conservation work in seven nature reserves in Northamptonshire.
Summer Leys, Southfield Farm Marsh, Barnes Meadow, Ditchford Lakes and Meadows, Titchmarsh SSSI, Duston Mill and Meadow and Wilson’s Pits will all become better homes for grazers, because the grant will fund new livestock handling facilities, fencing and management improvements.
The grant will also fund Trust sheep-dog, Deefor, whose vital assistance helps Wildlife Trust staff to round up herds ready for transporting, health checks and shearing. Deefor is highly trained and skilled in herding sheep in terrain that is steep and uneven.
Volunteers will be able to get involved in the project, helping out with installing fences, hay cutting, scrub control and can even try their hand at sheep shearing. Without the fantastic contributions that volunteers make we would not be able to carry out these brilliant projects that benefit both local people and wildlife.
Not only have we been lucky enough to secure a grant from SITA Trust, we have also received an extremely generous grant of £10,675 from the Clark Bradbury Charitable Trust. This grant and an additional £100 from one of our Corporate Members, Overstone Park, have enabled the full grant from SITA Trust to be released.
Thanks to all this fantastic support, our wonderful meadows in Northamptonshire will be safeguarded for wildlife and for people to enjoy, for many years to come.
22/04/2013 13:10: Spring 13 updateDue to the exceptionally wet summer, autumn and winter last year the management of the nature reserves had to be altered with hay cuts being delayed and grazing livestock moved off earlier than ideal due to flooding.
Despite the wet conditions the project has enabled Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers to carry out a number of volunteer tasks this year laying a hedge, carrying out fence repairs and clearing paths at Ditchford as well as clearing and burning at Summer leys.
The trust’s rare breed sheep lambed at the start on March 2013 during the very cold weather and the snow! Not ideal weather conditions for tiny little lambs but they are all well and a number are already grazing one of the compartments at Summer Leys to maintain optimal habitat conditions for the waterfowl.
24/07/2013 13:41: VolunteersVolunteers undertook training in species identification and the monitoring method used for the botanical survey which took place at Ditchford in June. The data gathered has been returned and volunteers and staff are currently in the process of collating it. The surveys are to estalish the impact of grazing our sites.
19/11/2013 10:45: Grazing Amazing Grasslands project comes to an endThis project has focused on improving and protecting wet grassland habitat within seven of our lowland meadow nature reserves in Northamptonshire.
Improvements have been made to the grazing infrastructure, including installing stock proof fencing and cattle handling facilities (cattle pens) at Ditchford, Duston, Titchmarsh, Southfield Farm Marsh and Summer Leys nature reserves. This has enabled improved conservation grazing and management of livestock (sheep and cattle). All seven of the nature reserves are now being either hay cut and grazed or just grazed with either the Wildlife Trust’s own livestock or local graziers. Conservation grazing is a sustainable way of managing reserves and enhancing them for the future.
The grazing programme, using our rare-breed stock of Hebridean and Manx Loaghtan sheep, has been managed by the Grazing Manager
(with support from her sheepdog!) and the Reserves Manager, co-ordinating the movement of livestock between each reserve to ensure an appropriate level of grazing to encourage biodiversity whilst avoiding over-grazing. The Grazing Manager also ensured that livestock welfare daily checks took place (food, water and health).
The cattle pens have enabled the staff to keep the herds together whilst preparing livestock for transportation, routine check ups and TbT testing. This has helped to make procedures much more efficient and practical.
The additional fencing to divide the reserves into compartments has enabled us to control grazing of specific areas within each
reserve. The fencing has also enabled important areas of SSSI to have additional protection by limiting access to these areas and preventing livestock from disturbing wading birds during the breeding season.
During the winter months (November to March), the cattle were removed from the reserves and placed within a local farmers housing facility to protect the sites from over-grazing whilst biodiversity productivity is low, therefore preventing structural damage.
The grazing programme intends to allow a balanced habitat supporting many plant species side by side and preventing a thick scrub. Without grazing the open meadows will lose their diversity as the smaller fragile flowers and grasses are replaced by aggressive, competitive, woody plants such as hawthorn, bramble and coarse grasses. Grazing removes the previous year’s thatch preventing the nutrients going back into the
soil, and creates a varied sward height which is attractive to a variety of wildlife.
Alongside the grazing scheme, the project has enabled Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers to carry out a number of tasks including weed control, hedge laying, fence repairs and path clearance at Ditchford, and willow and scrub clearance at Titchmarsh, Summer Leys and Wilsons Pits. This work has improved the grassland by reducing invasive weeds and allowing more vulnerable species to develop and spread throughout the reserves.
The project has also helped to fund the livestock costs for the Trust’s cattle and rare breed sheep whilst they are grazing the nature reserves, and has paid for the servicing and purchase of new tools and equipment to assist with our weed control and scrub management on the grasslands.
Grazing signage has been produced and will be installed at all sites to inform the public that livestock are on the site and remind them to keep their dogs on leads. This will hopefully increase public awareness and help to reduce issues of dog attacks on the livestock.