Published: 8 May 2014
Cattle have returned to graze at Berry Head for spring and summer.
Berry Head is an internationally important wildlife site and traditional grazing plays an important part in conserving the two most important wildlife features at the site - Greater Horseshoe Bats and the unique limestone grasslands, which are both struggling to survive for different reasons.
The rare Greater Horseshoe bats need cattle-grazed pasture near to their roost so that their young can survive - they feed on dung beetles which are attracted to cow-pats. Until cattle grazing was reintroduced to the headland ten years ago, Berry Head's bat colony had one of the highest rates of infant bat mortality in the country.
The very rare plants which grow on Berry Head's internationally rare grasslands are under threat from scrub-invasion and rougher grasses - the plants need a short turf to survive. Agile traditional breeds of sheep such as Soay and Hebridean are known for their conservation grazing and are excellent at grazing hillsides such as the cliffs at Berry Head.
The cattle will graze the site from May - October, supplying the bats with food when they need it most. Sheep will be present all year round from the autumn, but will only graze one of three compartments at any time.
Noel Hughes, Countryside Officer at Berry Head National Nature Reserve observed "It's great to have them back as this not only benefits the Greater Horseshoe Bats here at Berry Head, but it also represents another phase of Spring and moving into a new seasons worth of work. We have had lots of comments from visitors including many of our regular dog walkers that they are sad to see them go in the Autumn and look forward to their return."
Berry Head is a very popular site for dog walkers and we need to make sure that dog-exercising and livestock-grazing can coexist happily. Most dog-owners have become used to walking their dogs through the pasture when the cattle are present, and we ask that dogs are controlled either with commands or by use of a dog lead.
Anyone with quesions can contact Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust on 01803 606035.