Information & advice
Advice for land managers
The Neroche Scheme is developing new approaches to low-intensity management of pasture, heath and woodland along the northern ridge of the Blackdown Hills, using the Forestry Commission public forest as a 'test bed' for these approaches. We recognise that we have the flexibility and freedom to experiment in a way that most landowners and tenants do not, and because of this we are keen to do ground work which, if shown to be successful, could enable other land managers to follow a similar course in the future.
There are two main aspects to our current work. Firstly, we are establishing a mixed 'wood pasture' landscape managed using English Longhorn cattle. This is intended to provide a more natural, wildlife-rich landscape in the forest, and in due course to generate a sustainable yield of high-quality beef for local sale. The forest grazing programme includes the development of an off-site wintering 'corral' for cattle, at Curland, which will allow sensitive habitats to be 'rested' over the winter months, and cattle to be kept in a safe, healthy condition. Farmer Chris Salisbury, of Bickenhall Farm, is responsible for the care and management of the herd, and in return he will take surplus animals in due course for finishing off site. Meat from these animals will be marketed locally as 'forest beef'.
Secondly, we are seeking to restore former coppice areas in parts of the forest into an active rotation, both for the environmental benefits this can provide, and to generate a sustainable woodland product for local use. We are keen to work with the Blackdown Hills Woodland Association and Blackdown Hills Hedging Association to make this woodland produce work for the local economy.
At the same time as developing these projects, we are developing a dialogue with local land owners and tenants about the relevance of this type of grazing and woodland management for their own enterprises. Working with the Somerset Wildlife Trust and FWAG, we are offering a free advisory service in the Neroche area. This service is designed to help land managers bring marginal land into active use to the benefit of the farm business and its wildlife. Advice may:
- Help generate small grants for site fencing or scrub clearance
- Assist with applications for Environmental Stewardship
- Put farmers with similar aspirations in touch with one another
- Provide opportunities to compare notes with FC and Chris Salisbury over the progress of the Neroche grazing project
- Address issues surrounding coordinated marketing of local meat and woodland produce
- Put woodland service providers or craftsman in touch with potential suppliers or customers
To make use of this service please contact one of the following:
Somerset FWAG – Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group
Jake Chant - Tel: 01823 356166 Mob: 07980 732845
Somerset Wildlife Trust
Matthew Marshall - Tel: 01823 652400
Working Our Woodlands – Blackdown and East Devon Woodland Association
John Greenshields - Tel: 01823 660764
The Neroche Office
Tel: 01823 680846