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The Coversands Project

Location:30 Sites Across Lincolnshire and East Nottinghamshire

Habitats:Various types of habitat, Lowland, Heathland, Grassland

Livestock:Hebridean Sheep, Hampshire Down Sheep, Dexter Cattle, Cross breeds

In brief:Lowland Heathland Restoration / Recreation Partnership Project

Contact:Susan Glock


Also know by their enigmatic pseudonym of ‘the forgotten heathlands’, the Coversands are a fragmented group of around 30 lowland heathland sites across Lincolnshire. The heaths are characterised by dry acid and calcareous lowland heath, acid grassland, wet heat and inland sand dune, and supporting a diverse range of wildlife and plants. However, changes in agricultural practice and industrial development have reduced their coverage from 60,000 hectares to just 700 remaining today.

Hebridean sheep grazing on Risby Warren outside ScunthorpeThe Coversands Project, established in 2003, aims to reverse the fragmentation of the remaining heathland and provide corridors to link the sites by restoring a recreating 950 hectares of lowland heathland. Management largely consists of selective scrub control, mainly of dwarf birch, followed by a co-ordinated grazing regime using hardy animals, such as Hebridean sheep and Dexter cattle. The grazing system poses a logistical challenge as it has to ensure the correct number of livestock are at the correct place at the correct time whilst taking into account the needs of the different land-owning partner organisations. The project has employed a shepherd to manage the livestock and has also successfully developed volunteer shepherding schemes using local residents, for example at Atkinson’s Warren on the outskirts of Scunthorpe.

With the project ending in March 2008, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the grazing regimes, project partners have taken on management of their own animals. Using a ‘flying flock’ provided a good introduction to grazing for many sites that had never been grazed before. Now the project has demonstrated that grazing is effective at heathland sites, land managers have been prepared to take over local management so that grazing can continue into the future.

The Coversands project also encourages public access opportunities through the creation of new paths, bridleways and cycle routes and an Access and Interpretation Officer has been employed to encourage greater community involvement.

The Coversands Project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project partners are Natural England, North Lincolnshire Council, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Forestry Commission, Lincolnshire County Council and West Lindsey District Council.