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Moors Gorse: detailed proposals

Pilot grazing scheme at Moors Gorse

2021 will see the start of a small pilot grazing scheme at Moors Gorse. In the consultation 58% of respondents accepted or supported grazing at this site.

The pilot will allow people to see what conservation grazing is like and allows us to test the invisible / virtual fencing in different situations to inform how we use it elsewhere on the country park. The pilot is not about testing whether grazing ‘works’ – grazing is a well-used method of managing heathland and does not need further testing.

Work to install the infrastructure on site started during the Autumn of 2020, including fencing, kissing gates and field gates, water troughs and cattle handling facilities. 

Moors Gorse grazing map (5.05 MB)

Cattle will arrive in August and stay until the autumn. The area remains accessible for visitors to enjoy on foot. Our grazing fact sheet provides more information about using this area. 

  • The fence line has been chosen to blend in wherever possible with the woodland edge and to run alongside existing tracks or paths to save having to cut new routes. Preparatory work will take place before the fence is installed to clear the route of ground vegetation and any overhanging branches. This will prevent damage to trees whilst the fence is installed and allow for the fence to be regularly walked by staff to inspect it.
  • The line of the fence has also been chosen so that there is an alternative route around the site without having to walk through the grazed area if someone should wish.
  • This line has also been chosen so that it does not cross any public bridleways or public footpaths. Where the route crosses an informal path then a metal kissing gate will be installed. These gates are currently in use at Chasewater and have proven to be effective in terms of access and containing livestock. The gates come in different sizes so the appropriate one can be chosen depending on the level of access on the path. Pushchairs and mobility scooters use one of the paths so a large mobility gate will be used in these locations.
  • The fence has been set further back from the main Marquis Drive Bridleway since originally planned. This is to allow for maintenance of the drainage ditches along the Bridleway and to keep maximum space at the sides of this track as it is currently being used by timber lorries.
  • The grazing area has been divided into two sections by the fencing. This dividing line follows the line of the old fence that once marked the end of the RAF Hednesford Camp, the concrete posts from this fence can still be seen on site. This divide will allow us to contain the cattle in one half or the other whilst any other management work or activities take place.
  • The fence will be constructed to the same specification as the fencing on both Hednesford Hills and the Forestry Commission Connecting Cannock Chase project adjacent to Brindley Heath. Both of these sites are less than a mile and a half from the Moors Gorse site, have been grazed with cattle for many years and have a very similar habitat.
  • We have researched different options for allowing the deer easy access across fence lines and yet keep the cattle contained. These may include using wooden rails on sections, leaving gaps under the fence and building narrow ramps inside the grazed area for the deer to get over. The metal kissing gates we are going to use are also already in use in other areas nearby.
  • Cattle will arrive on site during in 2021. This system of a phased programme of works to introduce grazing has been used very successfully in the past. Most recently with the introduction of grazing at a new section of the Chasewater SSSI known locally as The Old Trotting Track.
  • The plan is to graze the area with up to 6 small cattle. The cattle will have a large area to graze including areas of shelter in woodland and open areas of heathland and grassland. It may take some time to find the ideal stocking level for the site but we always start with a low level and can then change it if necessary.
  • Cattle handling facilities are to be installed at one of the most accessible areas of the site. These will allow us to round up the cattle for any welfare issues and also be able to safely fix collars on to them for a trial of the invisible or virtual fencing system. This trial can be carried out within the fenced area so there cannot be any problems should a wire or collar fail and a cow escape. We will also be able to try the system on different terrain and vegetation within the fenced area to judge its effectiveness for use elsewhere.

The pilot scheme gives us the chance to test how the invisible and virtual fencing works, show people how conservation grazing operates in practice and allows people to better understand what it would be like in other areas of the site. The pilot is not a test of whether grazing ‘works’ in terms of managing habitat – we already know about the benefits of grazing and it is unlikely we would see a huge impact in a short time scale. Our evaluation would focus on how successful the invisible fencing was and how local people feel about having grazing on the site to see if there are any lessons we can learn.

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