Guernsey Conservation Herd returns to graze L'Ancresse Common

Thu 02 May 2024

Guernsey's Conservation Herd has returned to L'Ancresse Common, an essential element of helping to preserve the island's largest area of species-rich grassland.

The return was reported today by the Guernsey Press, which said that the herd was concentrated at Bunker Hill, where some furze has already been cut, also as part of essential maintenance of the Common.

The herd was started a decade ago by La Société Guernesiaise because in the last 10 years something like 50% of all Guernsey's precious species-rich grasslands has been lost, which has had a big impact on the island's ecosystem.

Species which are dependent on it, such as the skylark, which stopped breeding in the Island in 2010, or the meadow pipit, which is in steady and long-term decline, have all been directly affected. The decline of the stonechat, starling, house sparrow and to some degree, song thrush, blackbird and finches will all have been caused or accelerated by the loss of these grasslands and the intensification of the remaining land.

Active grazing
The benefit of the conservation herd – six steers which will be joined by two calves later in the summer – is that they actively graze the land.

Elsewhere, grassland is usually mechanically cut once or twice a year. These cuttings will then either be cleared using a collector or, if this isn’t possible they may be left and will form a thick thatch which supresses the growth of plants other than coarse grasses, reducing the area’s wildlife value.

The work on the Common is carried out very much with active conservation in mind and managing the furze and brambles prevents it from reverting to dense scrub, which is of much less ecological value than the habitat it replaces.

More on the conservation herd can be found here.

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