Our #GrazeroftheMonth for March is Kenny the Ucheldir Highland. Kenny and the Ucheldir Highland herd graze at Coed Ganllwyd National Nature Reserve, and Coed Berthlwyd SSSI. These are two adjacent ancient woodland compartments on the Dolmelynllyn Estate. The reserves are owned by the National Trust and managed by Rhodri Wigley- Lead Ranger for Meirionnydd.
A condition assessment of Coed Ganllwyd in 2011 found the condition to be ‘unfavourable declining’ due to overgrowth of bramble and a dense canopy. This was smothering bryophytes of European importance. In order to address this, the Trust have thinned the woodland and created canopy gaps, then introduced the Highland cows in 2015 to graze the understory and suppress bramble regrowth.
In Coed Berthlwyd, the ecological interest is Lichen rather than Bryophytes. Thinning work, and halo thinning around old lichen trees was carried out under lichenologists advice, and grazing was introduced to browse sapling regrowth from the cut stumps and also to tackle the bramble.
In both woodland compartments, only three animals (usually bullocks) have been used, but have been on site all year round. The low numbers for longer periods has resulted in less issues on the ground -less poaching, no animals trying to escape, and no issues with public access.
Since doing the thinning work and introducing grazing, the areas of Bluebells have increased throughout the woodlands and a patch of Ramsons (wild garlic) has quadroupled in size!
The Highlands are from Ucheldir Highland Cattle herd at Bryn Pyll, a smallholding in Trefriw, near Llanrwst and Betws y Coed. Geraint and Eleri started the grazing on the reserves with the support of Plantlife. It has become a flagship example of conservation grazing in Wales. It’s now become part of the Celtic Rainforests LIFE project and Highlands are being used to graze a couple of other woodlands, including past Grazer of the Week Connor!
The Celtic Rainforests Wales project has received funding from the LIFE programme of the European Union. The Project is a partnership between RSPB Cymru, SNPA, Woodland Trust/Coed Cadw, NRW, DCWW, LIFE, Natura2000
Contact PONT Cymru if you need help with a conservation grazing project.