Fire Beacon Fence ‘will help fend off invasive vegetation’

PUBLISHED: 06:55 27 October 2010

DEBATE: RSBP experts put their case forward to unhappy Stewart Williams at an open day at the Fire Beacon Nature Reserve last Thursday.

DEBATE: RSBP experts put their case forward to unhappy Stewart Williams at an open day at the Fire Beacon Nature Reserve last Thursday.

Archant

A PERMANENT boundary around Sidmouth’s Fire Beacon Nature Reserve will keep in cattle tasked with trampling and chomping invasive vegetation that threatens to overwhelm the site - says the man who has overseen the beauty spot for nearly 20 years.

A PERMANENT boundary around Sidmouth’s Fire Beacon Nature Reserve will keep in cattle tasked with trampling and chomping invasive vegetation that threatens to overwhelm the site - says the man who’s overseen the beauty spot for nearly 20 years.

The RSPB, which manages the land on behalf of Sidmouth Town Council, introduced Galloway Heifers in a bid to halt encroaching birch and bracken. The controversial cows were removed from the land, as planned, on Wednesday.

It is claimed a proposed 2,200 meter post and wire fence, costing more than £5,000 in Natural England cash, is needed to stop cattle from straying from the site as part of a sustainable long-term land management plan.

“There’s only a certain amount of diesel and horse power you can throw at these things,” said warden Toby Taylor, who manages the Reserve.

Thirty-two people attended an RSPB open day at Fire Beacon last Thursday. Mr Taylor, who has worked at the site since 1992, said the majority were in favour of the fence and cattle bid- with nine against change.

The RSBP must consult the public over the common land before seeking permission from the Planning Inspectorate to erect the boundary. High maintenance electric fencing restricted four Galloways to a third of the heathland this summer. The cattle will return next year.

A boundary fence would allow eight to 12 cows to roam the entire site from April until October, and ponies could graze the land in the winter months, said Mr Taylor.

“The fence will be running around the boundary of the site, you won’t have any different feel in terms of its openness, in my mind. There’s no intention to restrict anybody’s access. One of the things that came back from the open day is we should have ten gates instead of nine. To keep it as an open landscape we need to do something with it. If we don’t do anything it will change and won’t be open for people to enjoy.”

Mr Taylor said historically sites like Fire Beacon have been managed by commoners no longer in existence. He added the Planning Inspectorate could take up to nine months to make a decision.

Residents can comment on the proposals by writing to Nicky Hewitt, RSPB, Hawkerland Brake Barn, Exmouth Road, Aylesbeare, EX5 2JS, or e-mail nicky.hewitt@rsbp.org.uk.

l TELL us what you think. Write a letter to the editor or e-mail stefan.gordon@archant.co.uk.


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