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Goat Grazing at Eastcliff

You may have noticed a new herd of seven Boer goats along the Eastcliff in Bournemouth. Not only are they a delightful addition to the cliffsides, they also have the very important job of managing the natural habitat, heathland and acid grassland. 

The new goats were brought in by a local goat owner who we are working with to ensure the goats are cared for. 

Why do we use goats? 

Grazing by livestock is the only long-term and viable solution to help with cliff management. 

Goats are perfect for this job. Nimble by nature, the animals are very effective at controlling the growth of holm oak, the most harmful of the invasive exotic shrubs and trees on the cliffs.

Are goats the best option? 

As part of our commitment to our Climate and Ecological Emergency, this is an opportunity to restore and enhance the special natural features of the cliffs in a sustainable way. The long-term biodiversity benefits resulting from their grazing makes this worthwhile. 

Is this part of a wider scheme?

Yes. In 2014 we entered into an Environmental Stewardship agreement with Natural England (the Government’s nature advisory body). 

This set out a 10-year programme of funded work which aims to restore the cliffs to a more natural state for the benefit of the important native plants and animals that live there.

Have we used goats before? 

Yes, British Feral goats have been grazing an area of the cliff at Honeycombe Chine near Boscombe Pier for 10 years. The area has benefited from an increase in: 

  • butterflies and lizards
  • grass cover
  • native grassland habitats

Also, undesirable species such as holm oak, Japanese knotweed and bamboo no longer dominate this area. With such a dramatic transformation having been achieved, we decided to introduce goat grazing to other areas. 

What if they start to overgraze? 

The goats are a hardy breed so if we do notice signs of overgrazing or there is no longer enough vegetation to sustain them, they will simply be moved to another compartment along the cliff. 

How have the grazing compartments been set up? 

Nine grazing compartments have been created using a standard stock fence with weld mesh stapled to wooden posts along the top and bottom of the cliffs. A system called Clipex has been used on the slopes which offers the benefit of a longer life span. 

Is anything being done about the height of the fences?  

We are aware some of you may find the fencing on the cliff top intrusive in parts and we are doing all we can to minimise their visual impact. 

The height is being adjusted to ensure that it doesn’t exceed 1.2m (4 feet). Once the fence has weathered and vegetation has grown around its base, it will be far less obvious.