We often think of heathlands as a relic of our ancient past, a wild landscape of heather, gorse, bracken and grass that should remain 'untouched'. However, the reality is very different. Heathlands are ancient, but by no means can they be left untouched and must be managed in order to survive.
Heathlands are one of the most fascinating environments in the world, largely created and 'managed' by humans for thousands of years. The heathland and its invaluable mix of rare and endangered plants and animals have evolved a dependence upon grazing, cutting of fuel wood and peat, and controlled burning.
If heathland is abandoned, the unique heathland plants and animals are lost to scrub; grazing land would gradually become over grown; and important archaeological sites would disappear under layers of scrub. A modern approach should reflect traditional management practices and encompass scrub clearance, re-introduction of grazing management and, where appropriate, controlled burning.
The project aims to re-introduce traditional management practices where possible. To achieve this, various activities are often necessary:
To enable appropriate management, control of what happens to the land has to be achieved - in Brittany the HEATH project is helping to purchase land to allow effective management to reintroduced.
Traditional Hedge Boundaries
The project will repair, rebuild and create new Cornish Hedges (stone faced earth banks) and field boundaries across a number of sites throughout West Cornwall. By restoring field boundaries the project will enable heathland areas to be grazed and the improvement of the overall landscape character.
On some sites new fencing will be introduced to create stockproof grazing units. Fencing will also be used to ensure old field boundaries are also stockproof.
To enable grazing to be more effective and to create open areas small areas of scrub such as gorse and bracken will be cleared. Over time this will help create a mosaic of vegetation typical of a well managed heathland landscape and also increase the visibility of archaeological features.
The project aims to reintroduce grazing onto heathland using appropriate stock that is suitable for this type of habitat, for example, cattle such as Dexters and Welsh Blacks.