October 5, 2022
Brimridge covers fifty acres of grassland, once intensively grazed but now in the process of being rewilded in association with Devon Wildlife Trust. Our well-attended field trip offered a chance to learn more, including the process of wildflower meadow restoration and the use of grazing cattle from Cows in Clover.
Lynne Kenderdine, from Devon Wildlife Trust’s Avon Valley Project, introduced the group to the work going on at Brimridge and guided us on a tour of the land. You can read Lynne’s guest article on the Future Landscape for the South Hams here.
She led us through one of the fields where wildflower meadow creation was taking place, discussing how the team had worked to increase the range of wildflowers and create hay meadows. This included dealing with the tricky problem of high-nutrient soil, left over from the previous arable management.
Lynne discussed the importance of structure beyond just wildflower diversity - grasses, insect habitats and winter continuation - as well as some lessons learned, such as not harvesting before the plants have had a good chance to establish. She also showed us the new hedgerows, funded through countryside stewardship grants, and a series of new ponds which were installed by the owners of Brimridge Mary and Cyrus Clark.
Desley White introduced us to the herd of cattle from Cows in Clover, a conservation grazing enterprise that seeks to support local wildlife by grazing permanent pasture and wildflower meadows in a nature friendly way. The cows are native breeds including Dexters and Galloways, meaning they do well in conservation settings thanks to their coats for outwintering and ability to survive on rough grass.
The cows increase biodiversity by creating different habitats, such as bare ground and varying sward length grass, and providing dung for dung beetles. John Severn, who runs Cows in Clover together with Desley, introduced us to their “no fence” management system, which uses a gps tracking system through collars to track and contain the cattle to a specified grazing area.
The day offered some great insights to the possibilities of rewilding and restoring land that has been previously intensively farmed. We were able to discuss the challenges of creating habitats and building biodiversity, and learned more about how this can happen.
You can find out more about the Avon Valley Project and the support they can offer to landowners here, or read through their 10 year brochure. Follow along with the work of Cows in Clover via their Facebook page. Brimridge is not currently open to the public yet, but Andrews Wood is a well established nature reserve nearby at Loddiswell also run by DWT, and is worth a visit.