Visit Berry Head National Nature Reserve from 1st November and you might be lucky enough to spot some striking Soay sheep grazing within the North Fort itself. Dog walkers are required to keep their pets on a lead during this time as the sheep are being used as conservation grazers to encourage the growth and longevity of many of the important plants that inhabit the popular headland, which is cared for by local conservation charity Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust.
Conservation grazing by sheep is one of the most effective ways that a diverse habitat like Berry Head can be managed. The small and hardy Soay sheep are an ideal species for eating the scrub and rougher grasses that threaten to overshadow other important and rare plants, as their small size means that they are able to reach the areas less accessible for humans and machinery. The sheep have been at Berry Head for a while, grazing between the North and South Fort in winter and in the heath areas for the rest of the year.
Noel Hughes, Countryside Officer for Torbay Coast and Countryside trust said ‘Grazing is an important tool in the battle to protect our rarest species of wildflower and plant, the sheep will be able to get into areas where it is not safe for staff to go and they keep the grass at just the right length for many species to survive and the scrub that might overcrowd these delicate flowers, at bay. Whilst dogs and livestock are not always a good mix, asking the public to keep their dog on a lead in this area will mean that problems should not occur. I feel with the support of the Friends of Berry Head, many of our regular walkers and the wider community, we can guarantee the safety of the flock and ensure the protection of an area that people cherish.”
Here at the Guardhouse Café, we support the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust in their land management schemes, and look forward to some early morning, misty photos of them grazing around our picnic benches!
For further information, please contact Berry Head’s head ranger Noel Hughes.