Published: 4 November 2015
This week sees the return of sheep grazing at the North Fort area of Berry Head National Nature Reserve - something that hasn’t been seen at the headland for decades.
The Fort, which was built at the end of the 18th Century to help protect the port of Brixham and Torbay from french attack during the Napoleonic wars, will become home for a flock of Soay sheep. The sheep belong to the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, who manage the national nature reserve, and they will be used to help control the scrub across the reserve.
Noel Hughes, Countryside Officer for Torbay Coast and Countryside trust said "Grazing is an important tool in the battle to protect our rarest species of wildflower and plant, the sheep will be able to get into areas where it is not safe for staff to go and they keep the grass at just the right length for many species to survive and keep the scrub that might overcrowd these delicate flowers, at bay."
The rare wildflowers are just one of the reasons that the visitors make a bee line for the North Fort along with the beautiful views, a chance to see the resident guillemot colony or enjoy the wonderful food and service at the Guardhouse cafe.
A great many visitors use Berry Head as a place to exercise their pets and sometimes putting dogs and livestock in the same place can have unwelcome consequences. Steven French from Brixham Coastguard explains “Berry Head Coastguard Cliff Rescue Team regularly attend incidents where dogs have either fallen or become stuck over cliff edges. We advise and urge all dog owners that dogs should be kept on their leads when walking on headlands or coast paths. Dogs are normally chasing wildlife or livestock when they get into trouble.”
The Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust are asking owners to keep their dogs on leads in the fort for the next two months until the sheep are moved on to a new area in the new year. Signs will be placed on the entrances to the fort to remind the public and the visitor centre will be open in November for any owners that might have questions regarding the sheep.
The support from the local community for the move has been welcomed by both the Trust and the Friends of Berry Head group, who are the community’s representation on the reserve. They said “Whilst not all of us are dog walkers, a good many are and we consider that being able to walk our dogs on a national nature reserve is a privilege. Keeping a dog on a lead in what is a relatively small area and for such a short period of time is a small price to pay for helping to maintain the site for the benefit and enjoyment of everybody who uses it.”
For more information on this visit the Berry Head NNR website or check social media for updates.