This report presents the results of a feasibility study into the introduction of stock grazing into former wood pasture in the Savernake Forest SSSI in Wiltshire. The study has been commissioned by English Nature and was recommended in a Management Plan produced for the Forest by Forest Enterprise after discussions between English Nature and Forest Enterprise. The wildlife interest of the Forest is reviewed in the context of likely effects of grazing on key species, especially those associated with ancient trees and other components of the wood pasture habitat. Grazing is known to benefit some important groups and harm a few others, but the response of the majority of species is unknown. Grazing is therefore judged to be useful and even essential for some species, but must take place as a well-designed and carefully monitored trial. Results of other studies suggest that grazing should be extensive at low intensity. Local history and experience elsewhere point to cattle as a preferred stock species, although other domestic stock could be considered if necessary. Potential impacts on and benefits to access to the Forest, silvicultural operations and other estate activities are then reviewed. In combination with husbandry and ecological factors, this has been used to select the size and position of the best area in which to carry out a grazing trial. Two options for the provision of grazing stock have been explored, and likely costs of these options with the infrastructure needed to set the trial up have been estimated. Preliminary options for a monitoring system are also discussed but it is recommended that the monitoring system is designed specifically for the site after a joint visit by the appropriate specialists.
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