Conservation Grazing delivers a wide range of sustainable habitat benefits. R4C is the lifetime evaluator for this Green Recovery Challenge Fund project working with Surrey Wildlife Trust. The project will secure the Belted Galloway cattle as ‘bio-engineers’ on Surrey’s unique heathland habitats, providing valuable conservation grazing services to protected habitat sites. Neil is providing expert advice and support and also some additional independent evaluation activity to ensure and robust evaluation which meets the funder’s needs.
Grazing is vital to the preservation of Surrey’s unique heathlands, chalk grasslands, river meadows and wood pastures, providing habitat for a range of flora and fauna that would otherwise be lost (as much already has been). The approach has other benefits e.g., in preserving lowland bogs, capturing carbon, and helping to maintain floodplain meadows. As SWT say, ‘grazing is the most successful, natural tool to re-establish biodiversity’.
The focus of the ‘Sure Footed’ project is to deliver conservation grazing at 28 protected habitat sites over 356 hectares. It will also recruit 50 volunteer livestock checkers, training others in conservation grazing and use GPS tracking technology with the livestock. The project is funded through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, reflecting the impact of Covid-19. The impacts of the pandemic lead to a loss of resources which could have led to the sale of 130 Belted Galloway cattle, potentially interrupting the work for years and disrupting the benefits this delivers.
The project requires a proportionate and efficient evaluation to help SWT and other project partners to discover and share the learning which comes from the project. You can read more about the work of the Trust here.