Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Wild Horses Couldn't Drag Me Away


Horse anyone? Arcots latest unwanted tenants!! 
I love horses they're majestic, strong and beautiful mammals but like any other captive animal they should be cared for efficiently and in the correct manner. My local patch Arcot Pond & Grasslands on the southern border of Cramlington has become home to a herd of them
  • Who put them there?
  • What For?
  • Do they realise Arcot Grassland is a SSSI (Site of special scientific interest) ?
These horses have been carelessly dumped onto the land at Arcot and are well on course to damage the grasslands, the South West field is by far the worst! Obviously I can't blame the horses themselves, they are after all just doing what comes naturally. I am however, blaming and pointing a very annoyed finger at the person or persons responsible for this reckless semi-abandonment and the authority that has allowed this.
The horses have water so they do still belong to someone and are being looked after to a degree. Therefore I would assume that the owner in question would have sought to gain the relevant permissions from a higher authority to put them on the land.
This means they applied for permission and were therefore successful, which in turn means the relevant authority has gave them the green light to do so! Which if true, really angers and frustrates me!
Why would anyone rightly give permission for eleven horses, a few of which are tethered, free reign over a SSSI grassland. A grassland that holds uncommon species such as;

  • Dyer's Greenweed / Genista tinctoria
  • Adder's Tongue / Ophioglossum vulgatum

The South West field, the smallest of the four, has gone from being an attractive wild grassland meadow to quite literally a muddy quagmire with little vegetation. The areas the tethered horses are is now just large circular areas baron of vegetation.
These horses need removing and fast!!
Don't get me wrong I'm very much a believer in natural grazing strategies and grazing management when done correctly. A prime example being a few years ago when 'The Grasslands Trust' who formerly managed the site used highland Cattle to graze the fields. The problem is this is not a conservation management plan, this is a classic case of natural negligence!

Below is a quote from the Natural England report in regards to the Grassland;

'It supports probably the largest area of lowland species-rich unimproved grassland in North East England. The grassland contains a number of plant species now uncommon in the county. Both this grassland and the heathland are now extremely rare in Northumberland and threatened by agricultural improvement and development.'

The full report can be found here;
http://www.sssi.naturalengland.org.uk/citation/citation_photo/1000498.pdf

This is not the first time I have personally seen horses or other livestock on a SSSI. Last summer I witnessed several horses tethered and occupying the fields above Claxheugh Rock, Sunderland. Whether those horses are still there now remains to be seen as I haven't been to the location since conducting a Wildflower survey on the date in question.

It would be devastating if this species-rich lowland grassland became permanently damaged due to the intense horse grazing and activity. Arcot Pond & Grasslands is my local patch so I have probably taken this matter to heart more than most, but I think regardless of the fact this should not be allowed.
I'm hoping this matter will be resolved swiftly and the grassland can be left to flourish once again!

David
Nature North East/ The Northern Owl Project