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Moors Gorse: detailed proposals

Pilot grazing scheme at Moors Gorse

We are proposing that the grazing reintroduction could start with a small pilot scheme at Moors Gorse. In the consultation 58% of respondents accepted or supported grazing at this site. We had originally proposed using Furnace Coppice Field as the training area, but now feel that we can incorporate the training area within Moors Gorse itself.

The pilot will allow people to see what conservation grazing is like and allows us to test the invisible 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.

Low intensity grazing using docile and hardy native breeds like these Dexter and Dexter cross cattle on Hednesford Hills Common helps to conserve heathland habitats.

Low intensity grazing using docile and hardy native breeds like these Dexter and Dexter cross cattle on Hednesford Hills Common helps to conserve heathland habitats.

The infrastructure on site would be installed during the end of 2019 and early 2020. This would include a perimeter fence as shown on the Moors Gorse grazing map, kissing gates and field gates, water troughs and cattle handling facilities.

  • PDF Document  Moors Gorse grazing map (980 KB)
     
  • 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 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 events 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.
       
  • Although neither of these sites have had issues with deer becoming stuck or injured by their fencing we have researched different options for incorporating into our fence to allow the deer easy access across 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 these other areas.
       
  • We plan to have the fence constructed during the late winter/early spring 2020. The fenced area would be left without any gates for a short while to allow visitors to get used to where gates will be before they are installed. This time period will also help with identifying sections of fence that require additional work to facilitate deer movements before any gates are installed.  
       
  • The gates will be installed finally and then we will bring cattle on site during the spring of 2020. This system of a phased programme of works to introduce grazing has been used very successfully this year with the introduction of grazing at a new section of the Chasewater SSSI known locally as The Old Trotting Track. The exact timing of cattle arriving will be dependent on the weather. Some years at Chasewater we have cattle on site from March, other years spring doesn’t seem to arrive until May.
       
  • The plan is to graze the area with about 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 increase 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 fencing system. This trial can be carried out within a separately 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 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. Note that 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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