In 2018/19 the RSPB led a consultation on the future management of Firebeacon Hill near Sidmouth. The site has three compartments:

  • Fire Beacon Hill Local Nature Reserve (LNR) – common land – lowland heath 
  • Fire Beacon Plantation – Forestry England – conifers
  • Core Hill Wood – Woodland Trust – deciduous wood 

The management plan that emerged from this process aims to create linked areas of lowland heath and wood pasture. This will increase biodiversity and enhance the lowland heath, a rare and important habitat. One of the key ways this will be achieved is through the use of grazing. There has been some limited grazing on the LNR which is being extended by using a small herd of cattle with electronic collars.

I was asked to do a baseline biodiversity survey of the site before the grazing project got fully underway. This included a list of plant species and the frequency of each species in each compartment. This work was completed in 2022. I am now planning to repeat the plant survey during 2024. I hope to get a small team together this summer and do a few practice runs, so that we know the ropes ready for the spring. The survey results will provide the RSPB site manager and the landowners with information about the impact of the grazing. 

I hope our team will include both experienced and novice plant surveyors. 

If you are interested in getting involved, please get in contact with with Firebeacon survey in the headline.

Maz Hartwell

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