| Bristol Side of the Gorge & Downs
|Managing the Bristol side of the Gorge
The Avon Gorge is home to rare and endangered plants, ancient woodland and grasslands, all important in an international context. To ensure these plants survive the area has to be managed. Many of he rare plants inhabit open grasslands and rock faces, but unfortunately many of these areas have become over-grown with scrub and secondary woodland over the last few decades. Trees and shrubs shade out and kill grassland and rare plants growing beneath them.
Current conservation activities form major ongoing restoration work, which is taking place in the Gorge. In the past the Gorge was grazed by sheep, which would have kept grassy areas, where the rare plants thrive, free from scrubby bushes and trees. The overall aim is to link up the fragmented areas of grassland creating a haven for plants like the Bristol rock-cress to survive. Without this work, the special value and character of the Gorge may be lost forever.
Since 1999 conservation workers have been helping to save these grassland plants. Working on behalf of the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project, the specially trained workers have been selectively removing trees and shrubs from certain areas of the Gorge. This work will allow rarities such as Bristol whitebeam, Bristol onion, Bristol rock-cress and dwarf sedge to survive and thrive.
Goats on the Gorge
In June 2011 a small herd of six feral goats was introduced into a specially fenced area of the Gorge known as the Gully. They are here to help restore wildflower-rich grassland by controlling scrub.
The first phase of the restoration has been completed with the removal of trees and scrub from the Gully. It's now the goats job to control the scrub re-growth and help to encourage the grasses and wildflowers to re-establish. Goats have been chosen because they are good at controlling scrubby vegetation and suit the steep and difficult terrain.
Caring for the goats
The council's Downs ranger's team care for the goats and carry out daily checks on the animals. At weekends volunteers from the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge check the goats as well. Bristol Zoo Gardens is providing veterinary care.
How the project is funded
The project is receiving funding from Natural England under its Higher Level Stewardship Scheme. Higher Level Stewardship Scheme
Goat Frequently Asked Questions
If you have any questions regarding the goats please see our list of FAQs on the Bristol City Council website. The management of the Bristol side of the Avon Gorge is set out in the management plan which can also be found on the City Council website.
|Managing the Downs
The Downs are common land, and for centuries commoners exercised their rights to graze animals here. The constant nibbling of sheep helped to maintain the variety of wild flowers and to prevent the growth of trees and shrubs. When grazing stopped in the 1920s, scrub started to smother the rare plant life of this once open and treeless downland. Nowadays, mowing and careful management have replaced the crucial role of the sheep.
Certain areas of the Downs, the bits with the best un-improved limestone grassland (ie, areas which have never had fertilisers put on them and have the widest variety of flowers and grasses) are left to grow tall during the spring and early summer. These areas are managed like meadow areas. After the plants have flowered and set seed these areas are cut in late July and the hay is taken away for composting. This keeps the vigorous grasses from taking over and swamping out the smaller wildflowers.
Unless otherwise stated all other images belong to the National Trust or the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project.