Galloway cattle graze Sidmouth nature reserve

Galloway cattle graze Sidmouth’s Fire Beacon Nature Reserve

FIVE sturdy young Galloway steers may now greet you as you walk the footpaths of Fire Beacon Nature Reserve, Sidmouth.

After agreement by Sidmouth Town Council, trustees of the reserve, the RSPB has introduced the cattle, which are on loan from farmer Steve Palmer, who is based on Dartmoor.

The five newcomers arrived at their site last Thursday and have settled in well, grazing the sloping, bracken-covered land and trampling the bracken to make pathways.

Reserve assistant with the RSPB, Sophie Thurgood, said: “This Galloway (Scottish) breed is hardier and able to cope with the conditions. A modern breed wouldn’t last five seconds, it couldn’t cope with the gorse.”

The RSPB expects the cattle to trample pathways, which will damage the bracken rhizomes and help to keep it under control.

The animals are kept in by an electric fence, which was extended this week to give them a larger area to graze and room for water troughs. Up until now they got water from a natural stream on the land.

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A footpath runs near the area the cattle are being kept, but not close enough for dogs to disturb them.

They are checked daily by RSPB staff, who supplement their feed with cow compound.

“The plan is to put Exmoor or Dartmoor ponies here as well,” said Sophie, “which we are using at Aylesbeare and Venn Ottery nature reserves.

“They are good at trampling paths and grazing brambles.”