Wood pasture restoration in Leigh Woods

Part of the site is home to a small group of North Devon cattle during the growing season. These cattle are very docile and their grazing helps us restore the more open conditions of wood pasture.

Wood pasture

The southern part of Leigh Woods was formerly wood pasture, which represents a form of land management in which open areas of grassland are interspersed with trees and scrub, the trees were either pollarded regularly or left as maidens, it is for this reason, we have over 500 veteran pollards, mainly oaks.
There are only small areas of wood pasture remaining, these important areas of herb-rich limestone grassland support several rare and scarce plants.

Active restoration

To help us restore the more open conditions of wood pasture, grazing was re-introduced in 2009. This was facilitated by obtaining funding support through a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement with Natural England. The return of traditional grazing animals is helping to restore this important habitat but also lessen the amount of time spent on clearing brambles and scrubby growth.
The restoration of the wood pasture is also greatly benefiting the Scheduled Monument of Stoke Leigh Camp Iron Aged Hill Fort by removing selected trees and patches of scrub which are damaging underground archaeological remains. 
We are also opening up rides and thinning out blocks of secondary woodland, creating more open areas which link up with the remaining wood pasture.

Space to breathe

Veteran trees can easily suffer from over-shading by younger trees.  You may have noticed that most of the veteran trees are in a partial or full clearing, this is due to the removal of the surrounding trees, this process is known as halo releasing.

The cattle are also helping with the process of giving these veterans more space by sensitively grazing the area around these trees suppressing the regrowth of scrub and encouraging grasses and herbs to grow.