'conservation warriors' hailed a success at Brean Down
protection of a coastal peninsula managed by the National Trust
near Burnham-On-Sea is being ensured for future generations thanks
to the efforts of some unusual eco-warriors.
Brean Down is home to rich coastal limestone grasslands, as well
as several rare plants including white rock rose, dwarf sedge
and Somerset hair grass.
However, the species are particularly dependant on short turf
and if the grasslands were left unmanaged, the delicate ecosystem
would suffer from the encroachment of scrub such as bramble and
Thankfully this year, 300 sheep and 35 Dartmoor ponies have come
to the rescue. The seasonal grazing they will be providing over
the coming months will control the development of scrub and allow
smaller herbs and coastal wild flowers to flourish. In turn, this
will also invite a wider variety of insects and birds.
Area Ranger Simon Hill told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "Scrub is
not all bad, a mosaic of scrub of different ages is beneficial
for wildlife; young bramble is a good source of nectar and berries,
while denser pockets of hawthorn provide vital shelter. However,
if left unmanaged, these plants will spread, shading out important
wildflower species and over time, reducing the biodiversity of
The North Somerset Ranger team continue to manage the scrub on
a rotationa basis, using a range of techniques; most commonly
through the cutting and burning of material which they say is
a mammoth effort.
team of dedicated volunteers contribute over 800 hours to this
task and staff will spend around £70,000 each year in a
constant battle to keep the scrub at bay.
Simon added: "The National Trust team are delighted with
the assistance from their four-legged helpers this year. Each
year we work really hard to protect the wonderful wildlife at
Brean Down. Weve got a helping hand this year; the sheep
and ponies now grazing the grasslands provide the short turf many
rare wildflowers depend on."
"Brean Down is a registered Site of Special Scientific Interest
(SSSI) and a haven for birdwatchers, as well as being a sanctuary
for breeding pairs of Peregrine falcons and the home of carpets
of bluebells come spring. Thanks to the grazing provided this
year, Breans conservation future looks bright."
"The hardy herd of Dartmoor ponies have already taken up
residence, perfectly adapted to the wild winter weather on the
Down. The sheep are due to follow in March once they have lambed.
The ponies are beautiful, but best admired from a distance. The
desire is to keep them as wild animals, avoiding interaction with
visitors. Attempts to feed or approach the ponies could result
in them becoming tame and less effective in their conservation-grazing
"Visitors to the Down are also reminded to please keep dogs
under close control to avoid worrying the livestock, which can
be particularly vulnerable to being chased towards the cliff edges."
"A wander across the promontory in summer will reveal how
this near unique vegetation community in Britain has an almost
Mediterranean appearance, with breath-taking views across Somerset
and the Bristol Channel and an abandoned Palmerston fort to discover."