Thursday, 4 November 2010

Rufus and Tavey Return

I recently joined an organised walk looking at the stories attached to various plants. The walk took us into the SSSI that had been grazed by the ponies when we their stock checkers. The very knowledgeable lady taking the walk was amazed at the difference the ponies had made and was really excited to find that there were now lots of chalk grassland indicators that were clearly visible. It shows that conservation grazing works and is worthwhile.

During the summer the ponies have been grazing a completely different area that was too far away for us to be their checkers and although we visited them occasionally we still really missed them. However, last week they returned to the original area of SSSI near to us and we are again back to checking them:))) Tavey hasn't changed much but Rufus, the younger one (the grey) has grown such a lot and has lost his baby stature. He also seems a lot more confident and relaxed. It is such a pleasure to check on them and it is also very good exercise for us as the field is on a hill. I hope that we don't have quite such a snowy winter as last year though, as that made it very hard work.
We still also check on a flock of 20 sheep that are conservation grazing on the top of the North Downs. It has been quite a struggle over the last few weeks as they have been in a field covered in brambles and surrounded by Hawthorns. As the picture below shows, they liked to rest under the Hawthorns, but, as we need to check that they were all there and all well, we have had to scramble through the hawthorn bushes to chase them out to see them properly, so, along with brambles catching us round our legs, we have been returning covered in scratches. I'm pleased to say they have now just been moved to a much nicer field, so we managed to do today's check a lot quicker and without a scratch on us.

Below is a picture of my favourite sheep. We call him Rambo as he is a big, strong, handsome Jacob breeding ram but his real name is Ramekins which to me sounds sissy and doesn't do him justice. Although he is so powerful he is very friendly and gentle and loves me to give him a good scratch round the base of his horns. He has just gone on loan to the City of London to do what he does best with some of their conservation grazing ewes so I won't see him for a while but I'm sure he will have a good time:)
There are a few other Jacobs in the flock we check but the rest are all Beulah Speckled Face
An interesting fact about sheep is that they only have teeth on the bottom at the front of their mouths and then only eight. They are quite picky eaters and tear the grass by trapping it between the bottom teeth and the hard plate on the top of there mouth. They do have teeth top and bottom at the back of their mouths for chewing the cud but those eight teeth at the front are very important as without them they can't eat.