Wildlife trust paid to graze sheep

CARE of top wildlife sites along the Suffolk coast is to be boosted by support from the Rural Payments Agency.For the first time the Suffolk Wildlife Trust will be paid to graze sheep on certain Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

CARE of top wildlife sites along the Suffolk coast is to be boosted by support from the Rural Payments Agency.

For the first time the Suffolk Wildlife Trust will be paid to graze sheep on certain Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

The trust has run its own flock for some years, using them to graze heath and other grassland nature reserves along the coastal strip in order to preserve a close cropped sward and reduce invasion by rank vegetation.

Maintenance of the flock, which consists of 150 speckled face Beulah's and 50 Hebrideans, is costly.


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The new support under the Sheep Wildlife Enhancement Scheme, administered by the Rural Payments Agency, will remove the financial burden on the trust and secure the flock's foreseeable future.

It is expected to contribute between £12,000 and £13,000 a year for a five-year period and could be renewed.

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SSSI sites to benefit will include those at Sutton and Hollesley Common, Newbourne Springs and Trimley. These should now be completely restored by 2009.

"Grazing is the only practical, long-term way of managing these sites but often it is not economic," said Steve Aylward, manager of the trust's nature reserves.

"Grazing prevents habitat like heaths and wetlands being over run by scrub and other invasive plants and maintains diversity.

"This grant will help us cover the costs of grazing and keeping sheep during times of the year when they're not being used on wildlife sites," he added.

Grazing usually takes place between May and October but may vary according to the site and the weather.

Sheep are kept for the winter in sheltered yards at the Foxburrow Farm educational nature reserve at Melton where the ewes give birth to lambs.

Up to now the annual sale of lambs provided the only income from the flock.

The trust employs a shepherd to look after the sheep and to supervise transport to sites, fencing and the annual lambing.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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