Over the past few months the nature reserve at Dipton has remained free of any grazing animals. The biodiversity and mosaic of habitats have taken a setback. In some areas the willow herb has grown to dizzy heights out competing the other species on site. Bare ground has been covered with a carpet of grass with limited basking areas for invertebrates.
The site is owned Durham County Council and is part of the heathland restoration project. As part of the management plan grazing animals are to be put on the site over winter to knock back the increased growth. In this case Exmoor ponies are going to be our number one conservation tool.
Before the ponies are put out to graze over the winter months the site needed a few tweaks. An old fence line with barbed wire needed to be removed. We hadn’t even noticed this before as it was so overgrown with hawthorn. The Heathland Heartland volunteers were joined by the WildGrounds team who had also helped eradicate the Japanese Knotweed on a nearby site. It was great to have some help to dig out the old rotting fence posts, wrap up the barbed wire and drag off site.
A couple of passages were cut out of the existing scrub to allow the ponies’ access to other areas by linking two compartments together.
The ponies will get to work during September. Access to the site will remain unchanged but we do ask for people to keep their dogs on a lead.