Hebridean sheep (pictured) and Exmoor ponies currently grazing on Lane End and Red House Commons were moved to the combined commons of Memorial, Pound and Romney Ridge, on Tuesday, March 31. They will be joined by a number of Longhorn cattle.
The animals were introduced to the common in 2012 as part of a scheme to help halt the encroachment of invasive trees and plants which threaten the rare habitat.
“Grazing is a long-term project. The livestock help to maintain the valuable heathland habitat by keeping scrub under control and trampling bracken,” said Jo Heading, senior ranger for ESCC “This is the best way of sensitively managing the site for wildlife and keep more of the common open for walkers and horse riders.
“The livestock will remain on the combined commons until late Autumn and, during this time, we would ask motorists using Beggar’s Wood Road and North Common Road to drive with extra caution, give plenty of space to animals on the road verges and be aware that animals could be crossing these roads at any time.”
Dog owners have also be urged to keep their pets under control after a number of sheep were killed in previous years. Owners are advised to keep their dogs on a lead or use one of the commons where sheep are not grazing.
Grazing on Chailey Common has been made possible thanks to funding from the EU through Natural England, with a switch from funding through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) to the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme increasing the money available.
As well as allowing grazing to be reintroduced, the extra funding enabled more mechanical clearance and tree cutting, which is vital to maintaining the open heathland habitat and ensuring the historic landscape can be enjoyed by the public for generations to come.
Chailey Common is the only significant fragment of lowland heathland remaining in the Low Weald, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) comprised of Memorial, Pound, Romany Ridge, Red House and Lane End commons.
The Common is one of the largest open heathlands remaining in Sussex, designated as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) by East Sussex County Council under an agreement between the county council, Lewes District Council and the landowners. A management committee advises on the management of the Common.
The Common provides a habitat for many species of bird, including the Stonechat, Yellowhammer and Linnet, as well as native reptiles such as adders and common lizards.