THE National Trust has apologised for distressing neighbours in Purbeck after culling 15 goats when a trial grazing project failed.

The trust had rescued 18 British feral goats from the abattoir to see if it could use them as part of its heathland restoration scheme.

Although the animals successfully kept down scrub, they also proved impossible to pen within safe grazing areas and repeatedly escaped, causing damage to nearby gardens and a golf course.

The trust has now apologised for the cull after receiving a catalogue of complaints from residents and offers of homes for the remaining three animals, which are still at large.

A spokesman for the charity said: "We reluctantly took the decision to have these grazing animals put down, having accepted that we were unable to maintain them safely on National Trust land.

"Although we thought we had taken the best decision for the goats at the time, given the offers that have come to us in the last few days to take the three remaining goats, we wish we had done more to try and find them a home.

"It may also have been over-ambitious to undertake the grazing trial with these goats in the first place. We are taking a hard look at why these decisions were made and will learn from them."

The spokesman added that the trust would be happy to speak to any organisation that has the skills and expertise to catch the remaining goats humanely and give them a good home.

The goats were initially brought to graze Studland and Godlingston heaths, but they regularly escaped from their electric-fenced area.

The trust then attempted to use the herd to graze the steep slopes of Corfe Castle, but it proved equally difficult to corral them as they kept jumping over the six-foot fences set up to contain them.

The trust's spokesman added: "These are semi-wild goats and are notoriously difficult to pen.

"They eat their way through food sources very quickly and would be a danger to themselves and traffic if they were to escape.

"The trust tried to find other suitable areas for them in Purbeck, but they were either too near roads or were too far away from suitable food sources."