Avon Gorge introduces goats in bid to save wild flowers

A herd of goats has been introduced on to the Avon Gorge as part of a plan to save rare wild flowers.

The six animals have a fenced area covering four hectares (9.8 acres) in an area called the Gully.

It will be the goats' job to control the scrubby regrowth on the Avon Gorge, helping to restore grasses and flowers.

The goat grazing is planned for an initial period of five years, after which it will be reviewed.

Important site

According to Bristol City Council, the move marks the start of a "sustainable solution" to save and protect one of the UK's most important botanical sites.

Liberal Democrat councillor Glenise Morgan, a member of the Downs Committee, said: "It is almost 100 years since the gorge was grazed by sheep.

"It is great to see grazing animals back on the gorge as part of this important conservation project, which should help to save its very special wildflower grassland for future generations."

When sheep grazing on the Bristol side ceased at the beginning of the last century, the area became overgrown and woodland quickly established.

"The goats will be well cared for and will become a natural addition to the Avon Gorge's unique environment," said Robert Westlake, the Downs ranger.

"Their fenced area will ensure they have enough space to explore and plenty of vegetation to eat."

'Public support'

The goats will be cared for by two members of the city council's Downs ranger's team and Bristol Zoo.

"Over the last century the grassland and rare plants have suffered a significant decline," said Chris Westcott of Natural England.

"By introducing goats to help manage scrub regrowth we are enabling these rare plants to re-establish, grow and spread."

The introduction of the goats is being carried out by the city council and Natural England as part of the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project, which aims to protect the area's wildlife.

Initial discussions about the scheme two years ago prompted members of the Bristol Downs Watch to criticise the plans.

There were concerns that the area, which contains most of the world's population of two rare trees, would be ruined by the goats.

However Bristol City Council said public consultation showed "overwhelming public support" for the goats.

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