The Long Mynd Common
The Long Mynd Common came underEnvironmentally Sensitive Area (ESAs)agreement in 1999, providing the graziers with financial compensation to enable them to reduce stocking rates and limit supplementary feeding whilst also grant aiding bracken control and encouraging positive heather management.
The Long Mynd Common covers an area of over 2200 hectares most of which is heathland (a Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Habitat) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It has a unique botanical significance representing an important transitional position in the range of upland communities between sites in the south west and north of the country with the resulting mix of species typically on the northern or southern edges of their natural ranges. The Long Mynd is also the most important site in Shropshire for upland birds.
The Long Mynd as been owned by the National Trust since 1965. Prior to then it had been managed as a grouse moor. Most importantly in terms of the ESA agreement the Long Mynd is a common with over 90 registered right holders and rights to graze nearly 28,000 sheep.
What prompted the need for change?
Not surprisingly with so many rights associated with the common there had been a longstanding problem of environmental over-grazing on the common and in the early 90's summer stocking rates of over 5 ewes/ha were monitored. This was leading to decreases in the area of heathland and a reluctance on the part of the National Trust to carry out heather burning because of fears that heavy grazing would lead to limited re-growth. This in turn was thought to be affecting grouse numbers.
What happened next?
As a result of MAFF's introduction of cross-compliance measures on livestock subsidies stocking rates were reduced to 3.5 ewes/hectare by 1995. However, heather monitoring showed that damage was still occurring and ewe numbers were too high to allow appropriate management of the heath. Then, in 1999 changes to the ESA rules made it possible to enter into an ESA agreement on a common without necessarily entering into an agreement on grazier's home farms. This kindled an interest in the ESA scheme.
Where did the graziers go for help?
The graziers were approached, both through the commoners association and as individuals by the ESA Project Officers who acted as an initial source of guidance and advice. Having established that there was sufficient interest amongst the active graziers they joined together to employ an agent who negotiated the details of their agreement.
What were the biggest problems?
In order for this agreement to work the majority of the active graziers had to be involved, and prepared to appoint and work with an agent. Compromises had to be made and not everyone was entirely happy with their allocated stocking rates or payments. However, they have subsequently shown sufficient commitment to go out of their way to make it work and the results so far are very promising.
What difference has the grant made and how are the projects going?
The annual payments available through the ESA scheme have enabled the graziers to reduce their summer stocking rates to 1.5 ewes/hectare. This has reduced the grazing pressure on the heather, which is now showing signs of recovery and bloomed spectacularly in 2002. A further reduction in winter sheep numbers to 0.75 ewes/ha has reduced the need for supplementary feeding. This has led to a reduction in localised over-grazing and erosion.
Now that the grazing pressure has been reduced the National Trust are increasing the areas of heather burning undertaken each year, gradually bringing more heather back into a management routine which should improve its longevity and its value as a habitat for birds such as Red Grouse. Grant aid for bracken control has significantly increased the areas that can be treated. This should prevent further spread and open up greater areas of heather for burning management. Bracken control over grassland has also improved the grazing for the remaining sheep and these are reported to be doing better, with heavier lambs being sold off the hill.
last modified: 19 May, 2005
Page published: 12 November, 2003