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Grazing cattle help with Upton Heath regeneration a year after blaze
Generous donations from residents following the devastating fire on Upton Heath last summer, has helped fund grazers which could prevent a future blaze spreading.
Three rare breed Shetland cattle have been released onto the southern part of the heath to play their part in the restoration and management of some of the rarest habitat in Britain.
In June last year Dorset’s biggest heath fire in 30 years roared across 140 acres, a third of the 500 acre heath, destroying animals, plants and precious habitat.
The whole site is now being grazed, thanks to money pledged by the general public and funding from SITA Trust.
The small number of hardy grazing animals will now roam freely across the heath, helping to keep vegetation in check, encouraging the return of heathland plants to the burnt area and reducing the risk and spread of fire across the whole heath.
“Grazing is absolutely crucial to the long term management of the heath so I am absolutely delighted to see the Shetland cattle starting this work,” said Andy Fale, Upton Heath restoration project officer at Dorset Wildlife Trust, who has looked after the heath since 1998.
“We have had tremendous support from local people and we thank them for helping us to restore and protect Upton Heath for the future.”
The southern section has been fenced and grazed for several year and now fencing extends to cover the whole site, with gates at all access points to allow walkers, horse riders and nature lovers free access at all times.
The Shetland Cattle will be joined by a small herd of around five rare breed British White Cattle during the winter, while the three Exmoor ponies continue to graze the southern section.
A public appeal launched by the trust raised more than £50,000 and this resulted in further funding of nearly £120,000 from SITA Trust. We hope people will enjoy seeing the animals about but please do not feed them,” said Andy.
“They have plenty to eat and drink and are checked regularly.”
Anyone with any concerns about their welfare or would like to help with checking them can call 07823 534687.