Hart District Council’s Countryside Service is working in partnership with the RSPB to reintroduce grazing cattle to Hazeley Heath in Hartley Wintney, following a successful 5-year grazing trial and consultation period.
The first phase of the work, which started at the beginning of April, will see the installation of permanent fencing, which will include multipurpose access gates. This fence line follows the sites boundary beside the busy B3011 and is being installed as a precautionary measure to prevent the cows from getting onto the road. The main grazing zone will be managed using invisible fencing grazing technology.
Kate Ashbrook of the Open Spaces Society says: ‘We are delighted that the managers of Hazeley Heath are installing invisible fencing here. This has the double benefit of enabling the area to be grazed while ensuring that there are no unsightly fences to mar the landscape and restrict people’s freedom to enjoy this beautiful area. It is the perfect solution for commons which need to be grazed, and we congratulate Hart District council and the RSPB for pioneering it at Hazeley.’
Conservation grazing plays a key role in maintaining rare habitats like heathland. Amongst many other benefits, grazing is a sustainable way of controlling aggressive plant species which would otherwise dominate areas through scrub encroachment. Historically, livestock were grazed on the heath by commoners exercising their rights.
Talking about the new area Adam Green, Countryside Manager at Hart District Council, said: ‘On Hart-owned land, when the cattle are introduced, they will be grazing within the ‘grazing zone’. This area will be managed using invisible fencing technology, meaning there will be no permanent fencing structures put up within the site. This technology could also allow for the grazing zone to be further split into compartments, creating a more targeted grazing regime. As cattle will not be freely grazing across the whole site, visitors will have the option to avoid the cows completely, allowing free use of other areas for recreational purposes if preferred.’
Grazing stock will be trained to the invisible fencing system before they are put out onsite, it is hoped that the cattle will be ready to go onsite this summer. When the cattle are introduced to the site, signage will indicate when and where the cattle will be present so routes can be planned in advance.
The secretary of state gave consent for this project on the 11 April 2018. This project is part funded by Natural England, developer's contributions and Countryside Stewardship funds.
For more information visit: www.hart.gov.uk/hazeley-heath-nature-reserve-sssi