Thursday, 14 April 2016

Graze the Moor project - Molland Moor, Exmoor

Landowner, Christina Williams, in full flow
I had a good day yesterday on Exmoor, where I am project manager for the Graze the Moor project that amongst other work, is seeking to establish the impact of re-introducing winter grazing, principally by hill cattle, onto Molland Moor.

After a meeting in the estate office, it was a pleasure to get out onto the moor and see the benefits of the work that is being carried out by the project. Conditions were benign as the photo shows.

I am pleased that the University of Gloucester has shown a keen interest in this project and I am looking forward to introducing Prof Janet Dwyer and Dr Allan Butler from the Royal Agricultural University at Cirencester to the work of the project when they visit Molland next month.

Molinia starting to grow
One of the management challenges on Molland Moor is Purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea. In this photo you can see that the Molinia is already putting up green shoots after being burnt this spring.  Even in the Devon climate, heather cannot compete with this rate of recovery.  The project is considering how the dominance of Molinia on parts of the moor can be challenged.  We are thinking or raking out some of the mat of dead vegetation under the Molinia.  A dragged chain harrow has not been effective (and caused as much damage to the harrow as to the tussocks).  Has anyone had any success with this sort of approach?

To add an extra connection to the work, the cattle on the moor are mainly Galloway, and the farmer is seeking to upgrade them.  He bought the champion Galloway bull, and the runner up, at the bull sale in Castle Douglas, last year. These bulls came from Troloss Farm, which is owned by the landlord of the Heather Trust's office.  I drive through the farm every time I head north from the office.  

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