Conservation Grazing in the Forest of Dean


Conservation Grazing in the Forest of Dean

We’ve partnered with Foresters’ Forest to carry out conservation grazing in the Forest of Dean. The project aims to conserve and enhance wildlife in the Forest by creating areas of open habitat, especially heathland.


The Forest is one of the most important areas for wildlife in the UK, supporting habitats and species of national and European significance. Since the reduction of natural grazing animals, the Forest has seen a decline in species such as the small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly, which was previously found at over 50 sites in the Forest. Sadly, it is now only found on two nature reserves due to the loss of open habitat.

This project aims to conserve and enhance wildlife in the Forest by creating areas of open habitat, especially heathland, and maintaining it through grazing using a variety of livestock.

Locations of current livestock in the Forest of Dean

(22 September 2021)

  • 6 Exmoor Ponies - Woorgreens
  • 12 Highland Cattle - Poors Allotment
  • 32 Hebridean Sheep - Ridley Bottom
  • 10 Herdwick Sheep - Clarkes Pool Meadows

What will the project deliver?

The project will create improved heathland habitat which will evolve from the conservation grazing, creating and linking open habitat over a large area in the Dean. The expanded open habitat will sit within a wider mosaic of habitats - scrub, wetland, woodland and copse.

Three nature reserves, currently managed by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust: Wigpool, Woorgreens and Edgehills are part of this project. These reserves have been selected as they already centre on established heathland, with wildlife that would benefit the most from the introduction of conservation grazing to link existing habitats.

The project will involve fencing about 80 hectares of land in order to create habitats and enhance them through grazing using ponies and cattle. Within the permanent fenced area, temporary fencing will be used to divide the site into compartments to allow grazing levels to be manipulated.

What can I get involved in?

Forest of Dean and Newent Area Stock Checkers Wanted

Help us look after our Highland cattle, Exmoor Ponies and Hebridean Sheep.

We are looking for people to join our team of volunteers who help manage our livestock and ensure their welfare in the Forest of Dean and Newent area. We provide all training required so contact us if you’re interested. Tel: 01452 383333.

Can I hear first-hand from the stock-checkers?

You can also read our blog by Kevin Caster, GWT Land Manager, where he talks about conservation grazing livestock and the important work done by the dedicated team of volunteer stock checkers. You can hear first-hand from Mike Ingleby and Sarah Spindler, two volunteer stock checkers, as they describe their experiences when out in the field.

“I’ve loved being involved with them all and it has been fascinating to observe how they each contribute to the Grazing Project – the sheep do a great job eating any brambles, whereas the ponies are good at browsing gorse.  And seeing how the Highland Cattle use their horns to access leaves from the top of silver birch saplings is really funny!”

You can read the full blog post here.

Help us avoid disturbing the wildlife and livestock by following the guidance below:

  • Please keep dogs on leads
  • Do not feed the animals

  • Be calm and quiet when near the livestock

  • Maintain a distance of at least 5 meters where possible and do not approach them

  • If they approach you, calmly move away

  • Follow the Countryside Code

Animal Welfare is monitored by local volunteers and staff. In an emergency call our 24 hours service on 01452 389951.

Virtual fencing trial

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT), in partnership with Forestry England (FE) and the National Heritage Lottery Fund Forester’ Forest programme (NHLF), will be trialling a new virtual fencing system as part of their conservation grazing project, to assist in restoring priority open heathland habitat at Woorgreens, Edgehills and Wigpool nature reserves. The system we will be using has been developed and supplied by the Norwegian company Nofence Grazing Technology.

You can read more about this project in the FAQ's, linked below.

Forest logos

Frequently Asked Questions

Read our FAQs

Highland cattle - Nathan Millar