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Greedy Goats Munching Their Way to Good Conservation!

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Posted: Friday 16th November 2018 by WildBlog

A herd of 15 very friendly goats has just taken up residence at our Goblin Combe nature reserve and are helping do an important conservation job on this beautiful site. They’re munching their way through tough scrub and keeping the grassland areas open for wildflowers to flourish. The goats will be on site for around nine months, chewing their way through small trees like yew and turkey oak which have self-seeded, as well as tackling the lower branches of hawthorn and other trees which our conservation staff and volunteers can later go in to cut down.

Cutting down and clearing small trees, scrub like blackthorn and hawthorn and other plants is sometimes needed in areas like the rare limestone grassland which is a feature of Goblin Combe. If left unchecked, these plants will quickly spread and encroach on the open areas, leaving rare wildflowers unable to thrive.

Working with our grazing partner – the Bristol project Street Goat – we’re able to get these four-legged, agile munchers to tackle some of this, and we’ll see the benefits next spring and summer when wildflowers like salad burnet, wild thyme and harebells will bloom.

Goats are agile on rocky ground and good climbers, which makes them the perfect grazing animal for Goblin Combe with its steep slopes and rocky outcrops of limestone. They like to forage for a wide range of food, and their narrow muzzles and flexible upper lip also mean they are highly selective in which plants they choose to eat. They’re very social animals and when they’re in a free-ranging state – as they are during their time at Goblin Combe - they form matriarchal groups with older nanny goats leading.

As they perch high up on the slopes, chomping away on woody stems and branches, the golden autumn sunshine bathes the woodland trees below with a wonderful light, and the leaves glow with reds, golds and ambers. Our volunteers and staff will be working hard this autumn and winter to maintain the woodland for the wonderful wildlife that depends on it – including dormice, greater horseshoe bats and tawny owls.

Softly bleating around them will be the goat herd – an unusual but very effective team of conservation assistants!

If you’re visiting do look out for the friendly goat herd and Goblin Combe, feel free to report on how they are faring. You can find out more about the nature reserve and how to get there on our website

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