| Goats introduced onto the Avon Gorge as part of a plan to save rare wildflowers
Six feral goats have just been released into a specially fenced area of the Avon Gorge known as the Gully. This marks the start of a sustainable solution to control the growth of scrubby vegetation and help restore valuable wildflower rich grassland.
The introduction of the goats is being carried out by the City Council and Natural England as part of the wider Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project. The project aims to save and protect the Avon Gorge as one of the UKs most important botanical sites.
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 gorges rare plants such as Bristol rock cress and Bristol onion, which grow here and nowhere else in the UK.
The first phase of restoration has been completed with the removal of trees and scrub from the Gully. Its now the goats job to control the scrubby re-growth and help to encourage grasses and wildflower to re-establish. They are already a familiar sight in Burrington Coombe where they have proved they are good at controlling scrubby vegetation and well suited to the steep and difficult terrain.
Bristols goats will be cared for by two specially trained members of the city councils Downs Rangers team. They will carry out daily checks on the animals and Bristol Zoo Gardens will offer additional veterinary care.
The Avon Gorge is internationally recognised for its wildflower rich grassland and rare plants that grow on the rocky outcrops and grassy slopes. Over the last century the grassland and rare plants have suffered a significant decline, says Chris Westcott of Natural England. By introducing goats to help manage scrub re-growth we are enabling these rare plants to re-establish, grow and spread.
Cllr Glenise Morgan, a member of the Downs Committee said: It is almost 100 years since the gorge was grazed by sheep. It is great to see grazing animals back on the gorge as part of this important conservation project, which should help to save its very special wildflower grassland for future generations.
Cllr Gary Hopkins, Cabinet Member for Targeted Improvements said: The introduction of the goats is part of an exciting partnership project, and a really positive step towards helping to manage this special part of the Avon Gorge which is one of the UKs most important botanical sites.
Robert Westlake, the Downs Ranger added: The goats will be well cared for and will become a natural addition to the Avon Gorges unique environment. Their fenced area will ensure they have enough space to explore and plenty of vegetation to eat.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the introduction of goats into the Avon Gorge Gully can take part in two Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife events: A special talk on the goats, Tuesday, October 11th October and Meet the goat keepers walk on Saturday October 15th. To book call the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project on 0117 9030609
- Approximately 4 hectares has been fenced off for the goats. Walkers, climbers and visitors to the Gully can access the fenced area but are advised to note the steep and craggy terrain. Visitors are also asked to respect the goats welfare by keeping dogs on leads at all times and refraining from disturbing or approaching the goats.
- The project is part of implementation of Avon Gorge Management Plan.
- Public consultation showed overwhelming public support for the goats.
- The grazing will be monitored to measure and record the effects of grazing and rare plant recovery.
- The goat grazing is planned for an initial period of 5 years after which it will be reviewed.
About the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project
The Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project is a partnership of Bristol City Council, Bristol Zoo Gardens, Natural England, University of Bristol, the Society of Merchant Venturers, the Downs Committee and the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation.
The Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project is working to secure the outstanding wildlife interest of the Bristol side of the Avon Gorge and Clifton and Durdham Downs and to raise awareness and understanding of this unique location and its importance to people and wildlife
About Natural England
Natural England is the governments advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006 its work is focused on enhancing Englands wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public. This includes:
• establishing and caring for Englands main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.
• working to ensure that Englands landscapes are effectively protected, designating Englands National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Marine Conservation Zones, and advising widely on their conservation.
• running Englands Environmental Stewardship green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of Englands farmland.
• funding, managing, and providing scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of Englands species and habitats.
• promoting access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.