Town turns to animals to maintain wildlife havens

credit Neil Tungate

Published Tuesday 16 September 2014

Ponies and cattle have been reintroduced onto two open spaces in New Milton to revitalise the sites for the local community.

Six New Forest ponies are now grazing Barton Common and seven Dexter cattle are situated at Ballard Water Meadow, the first time animals have grazed the sites for 50 years.

These green spaces are owned and managed by New Milton Town Council and continue to be enjoyed by many local residents. They are both designated as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) because they are examples of heathland and grassland habitats that were once much more extensive across the UK.

The Town Council, with the support of the New Forest Land Advice Service and Natural England, took the decision to reintroduce grazing to these sites in order to:

  • Improve habitats for plants, insects and other wildlife
  • Save money, by reducing the need for a costly annual vegetation cut
  • Encourage traditional New Forest commoning by providing land for commoners’ animals.

Historically, both sites were grazed as part of the wider New Forest area and this would have maintained a varied habitat by controlling the growth of grasses and scrub.

Angela Peters, Community Wildlife Officer, said: ‘It is wonderful to see animals grazing these areas again after many years hard work in partnership with New Milton Town Council.

‘At Barton Common the ponies will help to keep scrub and grass growth across the whole site under control. As a result a more diverse habitat will develop on this site, leading to a greater variety of dragonflies, hoverflies and wetland and heathland plants.

‘At Ballard Water Meadow the cattle are already making an impression on the grassland by helping to control the coarser grasses, and are proving to be a more sustainable way of managing the site.’

Geoffrey Blunden, New Milton Town councillor, said: ‘We hope that everyone will continue to enjoy walking at these local beauty spots. While doing so please shut all gates and firmly close them behind you to ensure the cattle and ponies remain within the sites.

‘In the unlikely event that any of the animals are found to have become a nuisance they will be removed from site. If you notice any problems at either site, or if you are interested in helping the graziers to check the stock and associated infrastructure, please contact New Milton Town Council or the New Forest Land Advice Service.’

The New Forest Land Advice Service is funded by the New Forest National Park Authority, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the Verderers.

The grazing schemes in New Milton are part of the Town Council’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme, which provides financial support to assist with management of their important wildlife sites.

If you have any queries or comments contact New Milton Town Council on 01425 619120. If you would like to get involved please contact Angela at communitywildlifeplans@nflandadvice.org.uk or call 01590 646654.

-ends-

Notes to photo editor:

New Forest ponies on Barton Common, New Milton. Credit: Neil Tungate.

Notes to editor:

About the New Forest Land Advice Service

The New Forest Land Advice Service is available to landowners and occupiers who would like advice and support on a wide range of issues relating to land management. The advisors operate across the National Park, the Avon Valley and the coastal plain. Since the service started in 2010 it has advised more than 300 businesses.

The service offers:

  • A free and independent service for the land managing community in and around the New Forest and Avon Valley
  • Support for landowners, farmers, New Forest Commoners, equine owners, graziers and community groups
  • Advice to anyone who owns or manages a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) in the area
  • A small grant scheme which can support capital works which benefit the landscape, biodiversity and cultural heritage of the area.

To find out more about the New Forest Land Advice Service, or arrange a visit, please call 01590 646696 or email enquiries@nfladvice.org.uk.

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more

Media Contact:

Matt Stroud, Communications Assistant, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646650
Email: matt.stroud@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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