Sefton Council is welcoming sheep and cattle on to the local Nature Reserves at Ainsdale and Birkdale this week, as part of the its continuing conservation works.
Each winter, the Council brings grazing animals onto the reserves as part of Green Sefton’s management of the dunes. The seasonal grazing benefits nature conservation, as the animals help to control vegetation growth, encouraging diverse plant species to grow and dune specialists such as Natterjack Toads to thrive.
This year, Herdwick sheep from Cumbria alongside Belted Galloway and White Shorthorn cattle from neighbouring Lancashire have been moved on to the reserve. Before the cattle and sheep arrived for the winter, the fenced enclosures on the reserves were checked by Rangers to ensure that they were secure and safe for this year’s grazing.
Green Sefton is urging everyone to act responsibly if they visit the reserves to catch a glimpse of the special winter visitors. Dog walkers are reminded that pets should be kept on a lead and under close control within fenced grazing areas, following the Countryside Code.
Gordon White, Countryside Officer for Green Sefton, said: “These grazing animals are an essential tool in the management of Sefton’s scientifically important sand dunes. Not only do they help us to improve habitats, but they really help to optimise the potential of Sefton’s important natural assets.
“We urge all dog walkers to keep their pets on a lead, under close control and away from the sheep and cows they may see in the fenced grazing areas this winter – just as you would on any site or farmers field where livestock are kept. Whilst they are docile animals and used to seeing people, they could be a little nervous in their new Sefton home.”
Cllr Ian Moncur, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Conservation grazing is a fantastic, cost effective and natural way to protect our dune systems and it is great to see the animals making a return to our reserves again this winter.
“Sefton’s coastline is one of the most important areas in Britain for nature conservation, enjoying the highest level of protection under UK law as a site of specific scientific interest for its flora and fauna. On-going initiatives like this really help to enhance these important coastal ecological systems.”
Gordon White added: “We all have an obligation to protect these very special features, and balancing their needs with those of our visitors can be a tricky task. Part of our role at Green Sefton is to help our communities to learn and understand how fortunate we all are to have such incredible and fantastic species right on our doorstep. Working with our communities, as well as with partner organisations on specific environmental projects, we can achieve great improvements to our wonderful sand dune habitats.
“Ultimately this will enable us to be confident that we have contributed to passing them on to the next generation in a strong condition, to continue to survive, and provide them with fascinating wildlife spectacles.”
The animals will graze the reserves until early April 2021.