29 June 2011
Six goats have been released to help restore grassland and rare plants in the Gully area of Avon Gorge.
Bristol’s scenic Avon Gorge is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and one of the UK’s most important botanical sites. However, the grassland and rare plants have suffered a significant decline over the last 100 years.
The grassland on the Bristol side of the gorge was once grazed by sheep, which kept it open and free of trees and scrub. When grazing ceased at the beginning of the last century the area became overgrown and woodland quickly established. The grassland almost disappeared along with many of the gorge’s rare and unique plants such as the diminutive Bristol rock cress and the Bristol onion.
The first phase of restoration has been completed with the removal of trees and scrub. As part of the next, five year phase, six feral goats have just been released into a specially fenced 4 hectare area of the Avon Gorge known as the Gully. Their grazing will help to naturally control the growth of scrubby vegetation and help restore valuable wildflower rich grassland. The goats are already a familiar sight in Burrington Coombe where they have proved experts at controlling scrubby vegetation as well as being well suited to the steep and difficult terrain. The goats will graze back the vegetation to encourage the rare plants to re-establish.
The Gully also contains a small number of rare whitebeam trees. These have been individually fenced to protect them from browsing and to allow space for whitebeam trees to germinate and grow.
This is a partnership project with Bristol City Council as part of the wider Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project and was set up following consultation, which showed a overwhelming public support for the project. Bristol’s goats will be cared for by two specially trained members of the city council’s Downs Rangers team, who will carry out daily checks on the animals. Bristol Zoo Gardens will offer additional veterinary care.
Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project are running two events for anyone interested in finding out more about the introduction of goats: A special talk on the goats, Tuesday 11 October and 'Meet the goat keepers' walk on Saturday 15 October. For more information, call the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project on 0117 9030609 or visit www.avongorge.org.uk
Read Bristol City Council’s press release