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Wiveton Down grazing

A funding boost of nearly £14,000 from the Sita Trust has allowed the Norfolk Coast Partnership, working with Norfolk County Council, to enlist the help of a herd of Highland cattle to protect a rare and historic Norfolk coast downland - by grazing it.

Illustration for Wiveton Down grazing

Wiveton Down Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is an 11 hectare area of lowland dry acid grassland, formed by glaciers after the last ice age. It needs ongoing management to control the spread of gorse and scrub and until now this has been mown mainly by machinery.

This project focussed on creating a sustainable dry acid grassland habitat that will help wildlife while ensuring people can continue to use the site. Grazing sites such as this improves the biodiversity of an ecological network of grassland/ heathland habitats within a predominantly arable landscape in North Norfolk.

Wiveton Down has two parts - the western and eastern compartments, bisected by a minor road. The eastern compartment is already being successfully grazed, evidenced by the return of native flowers and grasses. This project aimed to extend this grazing management into the western compartment, thereby allowing the cattle to be moved between the compartments and prevent 'over grazing' of any one area.

The grant from the Sita Trust has allowed the following to take place:

  • Site preparation (gorse and bramble clearance)
  • Purchase & installation of 2000m of fencing with field gates
  • Purchase of 2x water troughs
  • Design & production of 2x interpretation boards
  • NCC Ecologist time (liaising with contractors & habitat monitoring)

Project timeline:

  • September 2014 - grant arrangements agreed between NCP and the Sita Trust
  • December 2014 - scrub clearance along the boundary of the western compartment in preparation for its new fencing. Replacement of old fencing in the eastern compartment. Two Highland cattle take up residence in the eastern compartment.
  • February 2015 - Fencing & water troughs installed in the western compartment.
  • March 2015 - Six adult female Highland cattle arrive in the western compartment to spend the remainder of the early spring here. They immediately start exploring the site and quickly settle into their grazing.
  • May 2015 - the cows from both compartments leave the site for their summer holidays. They will return in the autumn.
  • June 2015 - design and production of the interpretation boards underway. These will tell people about the importance of the site, how it is managed sustainably by grazing, and informing people about the cows etc.
  • Interpretation panels produced & installed on site. Project completed - July 2015.

NCP wish to thank the Sita Trust for the opportunity to run this project. Not only have long term sustainable management practices been implemented to the benefit of wildlife, but management costs have been also been significantly reduced. In addition, the Highland cattle themselves with their gentle nature have slotted into the landscape and become a special quality in their own right. We look forward to seeing them again later in the year.