Grazing cattle in wrong place says Sidmouth dog walker

THE “wrong scheme in the wrong place” is how Sidmouthian Tony Parsons describes the introduction of cattle to Fire Beacon Nature Reserve.

THE “wrong scheme in the wrong place” is how Sidmouthian Tony Parsons describes the introduction of cattle to Fire Beacon Nature Reserve.

Mr Parsons, 53, of Balfours, Sidmouth, walks his cocker spaniel Purdy daily along the path at the reserve and has written to East Devon District Council saying the Galloway hefers now at the reserve are not kept well away from walkers with dogs.

He is also concerned children might be garrotted on electric wires on the land.

Mr Parsons says 90 percent of people visiting the reserve use a recommended circular walk as denoted on EDDC’s notice board.

He said: “It is also on one of the main circular routes that people use to exercise their dogs, so these cattle and ponies will constantly be in contact with the public and sooner or later someone is going to be injured if the stock is bolted for any reason.

“The people of East Devon and Sidmouth in particular, have had an unrestricted right of access to this path, along with the rest of Fire Beacon and large areas of Core Hill for as long as I can remember.

Most Read

“I have walked my dogs there on a daily basis for the last 20 years, along with many others, and wonder if this is the thin end of the wedge to restrict public access to this common land, which belongs to all of us to use without restriction or hindrance within the law and not just for the RSPB to fence off large sections as they see fit.”

He claims cattle are not always docile, saying: “On consecutive nights I have had to move the cattle as they were completely blocking the footpath/right of way.”

He says the main cause is the appealing fresh grass that grows along the edge of the path.

“I do worry for some of the more vulnerable amongst us who like to walk their dogs in this area.

“…it’s only a matter of time before a young child running or cycling is garrotted by the electric fence.”

He questions whether a full risk assessment was carried out by the council before the scheme was implemented.

Charles Reed, assistant warden for the RSPB, which manages the reserve – owned by Sidmouth Town Council – said of the electric fences: “There are yellow warning signs dangling from the bright blue wires throughout the entire area.

“We have had electric fences for 15-20 years and never had a single incident of anyone being garrotted.”

Of Mr Parson’s other concerns he said the RSPB carried out risk assessments for grazing animals on all reserves.

He said dogs should be kept on leads during the summer and breeding season.

“Cattle do take a dislike to dogs running round.”

He added: “People enjoy walking on commons, which are a wonderful place, the trouble is the commoners were effectively managed by commoners taking scrub for fuel, harvesting bracken for bedding and grazing animals.

“Since commons rights were abolished we have lost 86-96 per cent of lowland heath in 200 years because of lack of management.”