A walk along Raspberry Ride takes you through wood pasture at Moor Barton Wilding. In the warmer months you cannot fail to notice the hum of a thousand insects, the hum of life.
Many people now believe that open and semi-open wood pasture would have formed the main landscape in Europe following the last major glacial period, about twelve thousand years ago. The openness of this wood pasture would have been created and maintained by large grazing herbivores such as auroch and bison. These animals wandered through the landscape, eating and trampling the vegetation. Without these keystone and functional creatures, wood pasture slowly, but inevitably, transforms into closed canopy woodland.
Reminiscent of the African savanna, wood pasture is made up of a mixture of habitats, from denser wooded groves to more open areas. It includes ancient trees, scrub and an open ground layer. Because of this diversity, it is of huge value to wildlife. Dead and decaying wood in the tree canopies or on the ground supports a variety of rare plants, animals and fungi. The flowers and shrubs provide food and shelter for insects and mammals, and the open areas, such as grassland, bring an abundance of light.
At Moor Barton Wilding, we maintain our wood pasture by allowing the populations of our two deer species - roe and fallow - to remain at relatively high levels. The roe deer browse on trees and shrubs, and the fallow deer graze the grasses, herbs and young trees. Together, their foraging and trampling helps to keep the wood pasture open and light filled. We are currently working to introduce local Dartmoor ponies to the land, to help the deer with this work. In addition, when needed, we mimic large herbivores ourselves, and undertake rotational cutting of the wood pasture with machinery or by hand. In some areas, we’re also thinning some of the broadleaves from the massive planting that took place just over a decade ago.