A TEAM of 14 new recruits are helping with the restoration of grassland, woodland and moorland at a nature reserve near Nomansland.

This autumn, RSPB Franchises Lodge became home to a herd of Devon Ruby Red cattle, whose job will be to graze specific habitats across the nature reserve.

Their arrival, described as a “step back in time”, saw the cows herded across the commons and onto the reserve via horseback – a method which would have been used traditionally by farmers hundreds of years ago.

Covering 420 hectares, the mix of habitats, including grasslands and woodlands, at RSPB Franchises Lodge are being managed and restored for a variety of wildlife.

The charity hopes that by bringing in native cattle to graze the coarse vegetation, the site can be improved for plants such as early marsh orchids and rare marsh gentian, as well as benefitting hairstreak butterflies and woodland and grassland bird species such as marsh tits and woodlarks.

Site manager Richard Snelling said: “Seeing the cattle arrive was a unique opportunity for our staff and volunteers to follow in the footsteps of former custodians of this landscape, and we are excited to see the difference that the cattle will make to the site.

“After having carefully chosen specific areas of the reserve in which we believe they can have the most positive impact for wildlife, we’re looking forward to seeing how the reserve evolves as a result.”

Thanks to funding from The Veolia Environmental Trust, the cattle can be found in a number of fenced grazing areas which can be seen from the network of permissive paths across the reserve.

Andrew Brown, the executive director at the Veolia Environmental Trust, said: "It's great to see the cattle arriving at RSPB Franchises Lodge and knowing that our grant of £75,000 through the Landfill Communities Fund has helped make this possible. The benefits in terms of biodiversity improvement and habitat restoration will make a big difference to the local environment.”

Visitors are asked to stick to the reserve’s permissive paths, with their dogs on leads, so as to best ensure the safety of them and the livestock when at the site.

Franchises Lodge is the RSPB’s first site in the New Forest, and was purchased in 2018.

Visit rspb.org.uk for more information.

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