Grazing at the Hardy Monument
Regular visitors to the hilltop at the Hardy Monument will have noticed the significant changes and work that has been happening over the last few years. The removal of the pine plantations, installation of fencing, cattle grids and water supplies have all been directed towards the restoration of the heath which covers the top of the hill into a better state of health and to increase its extent in order to support those dependent species. This work includes the management of the existing areas of heath to rejuvenate old heather, bilberry and gorse, and create variety in age, height and density. Traditionally this would have been done by grazing, cutting or burning any areas of older heath in a regular cycle.
Since late autumn, cattle have been grazing the heathland at the Hardy Monument.
The Belted Galloways are a native breed of cow that are well adapted to cope with the harsh conditions which are found on the site. They are small and compact with a low centre of gravity which means that they can navigate the steeper slopes, while causing little ground damage with their relatively large hooves. The Galloways also have a proportionally large chest and stomach, enabling them to digest and survive on the low nutrient food provided by the heathland vegetation.
The cattle have several benefits for the heathland, creating variety in the height, age and density of the vegetation being one of the most useful. A wider range of habitats and microclimates become available for the flowers, insects, mammals, reptiles and birds that make their home here as the cattle move around the site and eat. This movement also has the added benefit of breaking up and crushing the bracken stands which have become fairly well established over most of the hilltop. While the bracken has some value for some species, it can shade out much of the native flora when the growth becomes very thick, so for this reason, as well as grazing, we have been carrying out bracken control measures over the last couple of years. The break up and reduction in dense bracken will allow new heather,bilberry and other seedlings to germinate from the seed reserves newly exposed to the light.