What are the benefits to the natural environment of the active land management that you do?

The heathland habitats and historic landscapes on the Isles of Scilly are of international importance. Without management they would become degraded and obscured by the encroachment of vigorous species such as gorse, bramble and bracken, which would also prevent access to these areas.

By using recognised land management techniques we are able to help create a diverse range of habitats from short swards that benefit rare flowers like Orange birdsfoot, to tussocky grassland that is good cover for ground nesting birds such as Meadow pipit.

Short grass, bare ground and dung is crucial habitat for some invertebrates, which are in turn food for mammals and birds. 

What techniques do you use to manage the land?

The Islands are home to a wonderful variety of wildlife habitats and maintaining these is a delicate balancing act. Habitats require regular action to conserve them for the benefit of wildlife and to maintain access for people. We have three main resources to manage the land:

Machinery

Brush cutters, chainsaws, ‘walk-behind’ tractors with cutters and flail attachment, an Alpine tractor and flail with a collector are the machines that are used to manage the land.  Our team of skilled Estate Rangers operate the machinery in a safe and effective way.  Occasionally we employ local contractors to assist with cutting larger areas of bracken and gorse and with jobs such as digging of ponds or re-profiling of ditches.

Grazing

Many of our wildlife sites are grazed by our herd of Ruby Red Devon cattle. They create open and varied habitats which are good for wildflowers, insects and birds.

What would happen if you didn’t manage the land, why not just leave it to nature?

In the past the heathlands were an important part of the farmed landscape. Heather and bracken were harvested as precious commodities, which would have kept habitats open for grazing livestock therefore saving more sheltered land for the growing of crops.

Changes in lifestyle mean that these activities have stopped. We have been working hard to reverse this trend. If we didn't manage the land, eventually the vegetation would grow up high and be very thick, reducing access to areas of the Islands and restricting views.

Some of the vegetation on the Islands – such as gorse, bramble and bracken is also vigorous and invasive, and if we let it spread large areas would become overgrown and prevent the small delicate plants which make Scilly their home from thriving. In addition, the archaeological sites we are so keen to protect would be damaged and obscured.

I enjoy walking across the Islands – will my access to the grazing areas and other land management areas be restricted?

Care is taken to ensure that permissive paths remain open in grazed areas; if an electric fence crosses a recognised path we will install a temporary gate for you to use.  Where practically possible we use pushchair friendly gates and contain livestock in a way that offers alternative routes for walkers and horse riders but this is not always practical or possible. There is much to consider when fencing a site; including public access, the welfare of our animals, access for vehicles to the site for water bowsers and loading of animals. In most cases, there are alternative routes to take to avoid walking through the livestock.

Dog walkers are welcome but please keep dogs under close control on the sites where grazing is occurring.

Are the grazing and land management processes carried out in the same areas all of the time?

The majority of our management is determined by season, for example we do not cut or clear scrub during the bird breeding season and the use of grazing animals is targeted so that it is most effective. This may mean temporary enclosures, using electric fencing, where animals will only graze for a short period or larger grazing units where animals range over a large area for a longer period of time.