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Clayhidon Turbary

Exmoor ponies bring Turbary back to life

Four Exmoor ponies are helping Devon Wildlife Trust to nurse the newly-fenced Clayhidon Turbary back to health thanks to a £34,000 donation.
The Turbary was once used by local people who grazed their cattle there and cut peat for fuel to heat their homes. Its 34 acres of heathland, marsh and wet woodland form a combination of landscape types which has disappeared from much of the English landscape.
In 2011, with scrub and young woodland invading the open areas and endangering the site’s wildlife and special character, Devon Wildlife Trust took on its management and made it a nature reserve.
The breakthrough came recently when the trust gained £34,000 of funding from Biffa Award.
This has allowed restoration work to begin and the first results are beginning to show.
 The trust has erected a fence around the site, not to keep people out but to keep ponies and cattle in.
Ed Hopkinson, the Nature Reserve Officer for Clayhidon Turbary, explained: “Without fencing we couldn’t introduce grazing animals to the reserve, and without grazing animals it was impossible to reverse the steady march of invasive young trees and scrub.
“Removing these by hand is time consuming and costly when ponies and cattle will do it 24 hours a day for no pay. So having cattle here is filling a massive missing piece in our management.”
Biffa Award funding has also allowed the trust buy a scythe cutter. The kit is now allowing Ed to cut back bracken on some of the reserve’s steep valley slopes, opening them up to the growth of more delicate wild flowers, including lesser butterfly orchids and violets. 

In turn these plants will encourage insect life including the rare pearl bordered fritillary butterfly.   
This year the project will try to encourage greater interest in the Turbary by recruiting volunteers to help with future management, install better footpath access and provide interpretation panels telling visitors about the heathland’s history, its wildlife and its future. 

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