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Page last updated at 12:34 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 13:34 UK
Boscombe's cliff top goat patrol
Sue Hendey, BBC Dorset
By Sue Hendey
BBC Dorset

One of five goats patrolling Boscombe's cliffs
The goats are part of a six month pilot project.

An all-female goat herd from Bonchurch Down on the Isle of Wight has found a new home on the cliff tops above Bourenmouth's Boscombe Beach.

The five nanny goats have been employed by Bournemouth Borough Council as part of a six month pilot project.

It is hoped they will clear their four acre enclosure of plants and weeds, which are damaging the environment.

Holm oak shrubs and Japanese knotweed are the biggest pests to what should be an area of acid grassland.

Dartford warbler on flowering gorse bush
One aim is to encourage Dartford warblers back to Boscombe.

Stuart Clarke, the Countryside Policy Officer for Bournemouth Borough Council, says: "We've got this fantastic natural resource, which should be lovely acid grassland, with all associated rare plants and should be a habitat for animals such as Dartford wablers and sand lizards.

"But we've lost all of that on this particular area, mainly because of the holm oak [shrub] encroachment [they were planted here many years ago, because they were to be considered "attractive"].

"They're a Mediterranean species, they're not a native species, so their biodioversity value is very, very low - they don't support many native insects or other invertebrates.

"Being evergreen they don't allow any vegetation to grow underneath them, so it's bare ground.

"[And] as they get bigger and bigger they tend to collapse and literally take the cliff with them."

Stuart Clarke, Countryside Policy Officer for Bournemouth Borough Council
Stuart has received some positive feedback from local residents.

'A remarkable affect'

The goats are part of a six month pilot project. The aim is for them to eat as much of the holm oak as possible and clear the land.

Stuart says: "They arrived at the beginning of April [2009] and they're already having a remarkable affect.

"The reason we've chosen goats is because they are principally browsing animals rather than grazers.

"We've actually seen them up in the trees getting at the branches."

Tourist attraction?

As well as eating the holm oaks, the goats are also getting rid of other pest plants, such as Japanese knotweed.

And they are attracting the attention of residents and visitors.

Stuart says: "Everyone's been very positive about them and reporting back any sightings.

"They've been so elusive. The area is just so scrubbed over they tend to keep themselves to themselves and hide away."

If the trial is successful it is hoped that the enclosure will double in size and extend further towards Boscombe Pier.


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