Animal magic on Commons to keep invasive plants at bay

Protecting the ha-baa-tat: This Hebridean sheep has a role to play
Protecting the ha-baa-tat: This Hebridean sheep has a role to play

Cows, sheep and ponies will be moving in to Chailey Commons as part of a project to protect the nationally rare heathland by removing invasive plants through grazing.

From next Tuesday, October 9, a local farmer – who also has Commoner’s rights – will be using around 80 hardy Hebridean sheep and a small group of Sussex cattle to graze Memorial, Pound and Romany Ridge Commons.

The cattle and some of the sheep will be wearing fluorescent collars to aid visibility for motorists. They will have access to North Common and Beggar’s Wood Roads, but their movement will be controlled by cattle grids.

They will remain on the Commons as long as the weather conditions are suitable and enough food is available for them

From the end of October, they will be joined by 10 Exmoor ponies owned by the Sussex Pony Grazing Trust. The ponies will graze on Red House Common throughout the winter until March and will help to control scrub and gorse.

Grazing will help to fulfil Higher Level Stewardship objectives on the Common by helping to reduce scrub invasion and open up the Commons to recreational users on this important heathland site.

Chailey Common is one of the largest open heathlands remaining in Sussex. It is privately owned and managed by a management committee under an agreement between the County Council, Lewes District Council and the landowners.