On the importance of sheep, and dog leads

 
Some people might be surprised to know that much of the Trust’s regular income comes from the Rural Payment Agency - our current land holding is around 128 hectares (316 acres).
 
In a happy convergence, keeping land under permanent grassland is desired by the government to reach its ‘greening’ targets under the Basic Payment Scheme (formerly the Single Payment Scheme); and to fulfil its environmental objectives through agri-environmental schemes such as the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme (superseded this year by the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme); and it is also the best way to manage and protect archaeological sites.  Permanent grassland does not require the damaging plough, and regular grazing prevents scrub and vegetation growth from obscuring or damaging archaeological features. 
 
Managing sheep on our land is therefore a vital aspect of the Trust’s work. Existing Higher-Level Stewardship schemes specify how many sheep are permitted per hectare, and when. This month I have issued licences to a number of graziers which will allow them to keep sheep on our sites at Caistor, Tasburgh, Middleton, Binham and Bloodgate Hill, from spring until the autumn this year. 
 
Grassland is also the best sort of land management for facilitating public access – another Higher-Level stewardship option - and most of our sites are very popular with dogs and their owners. Balancing the needs of sheep, wildlife and dogs can be tricky. Although most dog owners are responsible, I often see dogs off lead while I’m visiting our sites, even when sheep are present, and last year at least one sheep at Caistor was attacked by a dog. Ground nesting birds, such as skylarks are also put at risk in areas where we manage the grass for hay.
 
This year we will be giving out leaflets to dog owners at Burgh Castle and Caistor which will explain why it’s important to keep dogs on leads during the spring and summer. If you would like to help with this – especially if you are a dog-owner yourself - and could spare an hour or two on a week day, please let me know.
 
News in brief:
  • Four contractors have submitted exciting proposals for developing the new interpretation scheme at Caistor. The project management team’s decision on which one to take forward will be reported in the Spring newsletter.
  • A new length of hedge was planted along Church Hill at Tasburgh earthworks during February with the kind assistance of the local tree warden and three parishioners.

 

 

  • A number of volunteers have come forward at Burgh Castle to help with keeping an eye on the site, litter picking and helping with ragwort pulling – thank you!
  • A short article from the Trust on protecting skylarks at Burgh Castle appeared in the Yarmouth Mercury and the EDP in February. We have skylarks at Burgh Castle, Caistor and St Benet’s Abbey. The skylark is a Red List species because of its recent and dramatic population decline nationally
  • A family ‘Fun Day’ will be held at Caistor Roman Town on Saturday May 23 – more details to follow