We need helpers to help us reform the land
The rugged Highland cattle are our proxy for the ancient Aurochs. Historically, the Aurochs would have formed huge herds, grazing and browsing vegetation, to create a tapestry of wildlife habitats. Our herd has already made changes to the old hedge banks by creating dust wallows, provided rich deadwood habitats through brush thrashing and as they have no pesticides in their bodies providing clean blood and dung for insects. Did you know a highland cow can produce its own weight in dung in a year and that dung beetles descend now in numbers to plop straight into to the rich feast of each hot fresh cow pat they produce?
These ponies are the most primitive horse breed in the UK and as such are be extremely similar to the horse type present in the Iron Age. They are hardy ‘top grazers’, meaning they manipulate the habitat in a different way to the heck cattle. Their sturdy teeth allow them to consume some of the toughest herb species and de-bark trees, opening up a range of different micro-habitats for smaller creatures.
Iron Age Pigs:
A cross between wild boar and Tamworth pigs, they create habitat in a different way by using their long snouts to ‘rootle’ through the ground looking for tubers, insects and roots, they naturally plough the soil. Taking land that was flat and turning it into a complicated topsy turvey environment. Small pools form where they wallow in the summer months and these are used by dragonflies and frogs. Their activities allow long dormant beds of long covered plant seeds to burst forth and regenerate.
In March of this year we removed the heck cattle, and introduced 5 water buffalo into the re-wilding area. It is early days, but it is hoped that these animals will change the environment in different ways, such as creating new wallows as they move through the wetlands.
Once native to the UK, beavers were hunted to extinction around 400 years ago for their fur, meat and ‘castoreum’. This secretion was used in perfumes, food and medicine. These ‘water gardeners’ build dams that produce vast complicated wetlands which benefit a variety of species and improve water quality. A family of beavers are present in our valley bottoms. They have created over a mile of pool systems that extend downstream. A myriad of dams and wetlands now pulse with life. Dragonflies, damsels and demoiselles live here in high numbers and each season sees the return of more creatures. Frogs, toads and newts now live in their pools while kingfishers and otters hunt in the ditches.
Endangered water voles have been introduced to this ‘beaver created wetland’ and are thriving.
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