Island welcomes new four-legged arrivals

The sheep, supplied from a farm near Lowick, are a mixture of mules and Suffolks.
The sheep, supplied from a farm near Lowick, are a mixture of mules and Suffolks.

The grazing of up to 50 sheep between now and January will help to manage the dune grassland on Holy Island.

The arrival of 30 sheep at the Snook earlier this month is one part of a wider Heritage Lottery Fund project that aims to improve natural habitat and inform its ongoing management at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve (NNR).

Stock grazing is not new to Holy Island, but this year, however, the scale of the project has been increased with support from the Peregrini Lindisfarne Landscape Partnership project with an extension to the area to be grazed, an increase in the size of the herd and an investment in equipment to contain the animals.

The grazing pattern of stock benefits key species, such as the unique Lindisfarne helleborine, and will reduce the impact of invasive species like the pirri-pirri bur and the Michaelmas daisy. The animals nibble at the sward at different rates creating a mosaic of grasses of differing length which in turn is of great benefit to the range of invertebrates for which the Reserve is noted.

Alex Dodds has been appointed as seasonal warden to help look after the sheep and cattle. “After spending the summer as a shorebird warden monitoring little terns, I’m excited to be back at Lindisfarne NNR as a winter seasonal warden,” he said.

“My work is focused on livestock and practical habitat management, as well as carrying out extensive invasive and non-native plant survey work on Holy Island.

“I’m looking forward to being involved in the wider reserve management throughout the next few months – persevering through the colder weather and carrying out practical habitat work during the winter is what shapes the success of the summer.

“I’m getting used to working on Holy Island and planning my schedule around the high tides. I think the coast during winter is often underrated, but I’m hoping for a few dramatic stormy days – I’m sure I can cope with a Northumberland winter as well as our livestock out on the Reserve.”

The Dune Grassland Management project is run by Natural England and supported by the Peregrini Lindisfarne project, a Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnership Project developed to conserve, enhance and celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of Holy Island and the wider shoreside landscape.

Senior reserve manager, Andrew Craggs, said: “The extra funding has allowed us to expand our grazing project and commence an audit of non-native species that will help shape future management of the dune grasslands.”