Aerial Photos and the Report on Valley of Rocks Centre for Conservation Science University of Stirling dated 17.01.2004

C. E. Ridsdale

The report attempts to analyse the distribution of 6 predefined vegetation types in the Valley of Rocks. Heather, gorse and scree could be of conservation significance whilst Rhododendron, Sycamore and bracken are not.

The report does not include any other analysis of the plant biodiversity and therefore cannot pretend to discuss the effects of grazing on the landscape and plant biodiversity.

The only data used are aerial photographs from 1948 and 1999, the earlier black and white photos giving many interpretation problems. Other data such as historical photos and postcards were not consulted.

Comparable map to that used in Stirling Report –shadow over portion V.o.R.

Image produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Limited and Ordnance Survey

Current distributions of the selected vegetation types are presented.

Sycamore/ Woodlands.

Evidence is presented that the grazing efforts of the goats significantly limit the spread of this species. Other means of removal would be costly and time consuming.

The woodlands in the core area are also mixed ash-birch in many areas. Sycamore invades the Valley of Rocks area (purple arrows) and some areas of Hollerday Hill.

Distribution of Sycamore (aerial photography by ukperspectives. Com. Ex Stirling Report)

Rhododendron Scrub.

3 pages describe the well-known reduction of biodiversity caused by this invasive species. Past control efforts are summarized and continued long-term control advised.

Goats cannot graze the toxic leaves.

Area seems to be incorrect, as the large block top right corresponds to the area behind the town hall extending to exit of the upper coastal path from the woodlands.

Distribution of Rhododendron (aerial photography by ukperspectives. Com. Ex Stirling Report)

As can be seen in above coloured aerial photo this is mostly trees.

Gorse

There is a large area of gorse above the path along the cricket pitch to coastal path starting opposite the picnic area by the " poets shelter" Further an area above the Cleaves

Distribution of gorse (aerial photography by ukperspectives. Com. Ex Stirling Report)

Bracken

The bracken dominates large areas of the Valley of Rocks

Distribution of bracken (aerial photography by ukperspectives. Com. Ex Stirling Report)

Heather/Ling

This occupies a small area of the Valley. Sheep are irrelevant, here and no overgrazing by goats is noted. No proper management plan for the habitat reported.

Distribution of heather [areas enhanced] (aerial photography by ukperspectives. Com. Ex Stirling Report)

Scree

Natural screes are a specific habitat. It is surprising that the area has not changed in 50 years; usually there is plant colonization from the edges.

I would suggest that the goats play a significant role in keeping the equilibrium and maintaining this habitat (see photo top of page) This is also linked to the visual geological features, which make the valley attractive.

The Goats

The goats severely limit the spread of sycamore and may control Rhododendron seedling establishment.

The goat population in the V. o R. is relatively small and isolated.

The Conclusions.

There is NO evidence in the text to support the conclusion that a high density goat population results in the least heterogeneous and least bio-diverse landscape.  (At this level they control sycamore see above)

There is NO evidence in the report of overgrazing or negative effects caused by present number of goats, in fact they report a positive influence!

There is NO evidence in the report of overgrazing or negative effects caused by present number of goats, in fact they report a positive influence!

We need the figures of the population counts over the period that they have been recorded and supplied to the council (or obtain from Ray Werner) as nobody has confirmed that there is indeed a high density population at the moment.

 

Aerial Photos

Bracken

Heather

GORSE

Rhododendron