Pigs in the woods
Fineshade resident, Shenagh Hackett wrote about the rare breed pigs in Fineshade Wood in 2015
30 April 2015
After a break of a few months we were back with some young Mangalitza pigs working in Fineshade Woods. This was an ongoing environmental project with the Forestry Commission to use pigs to clear woodland to allow natural vegetation to grow back and replanting to take place. The pigs’ main role was to grub up the calamagrostis grass that forms clumps of tall fluffy flower heads that prevent trees from naturally seeding. Over the previous four years this project proved to be successful with our herd working through the Far Miers section of the wood resulting in the Forestry Commission being able to plant over 100 wild cherry trees and large number of oak saplings emerging. (See pictures below)
The rare breed Mangalitzas originally from Hungary, are ideally suited to this type of project as they have very strong snouts which enable them to dig deep into root systems in search of bugs and other creepy crawlies. Their thick curly coat the hairs from which are used in making flies for fishing, also makes them a hardy animal and they will spend most of their time outside of the arc.
Our new boys were three months old when the picture on the left was taken.
Far Miers, in the southern part of Fineshade Wood, before and after budburst. This was the first section of the woods where pigs were used
27 May 2015
What a difference a month makes! Not only were our boys bigger but trees and plants had erupted all over the place -
I even found our first and only bluebell. The growth of the foliage and different plants on our pig patch is really attributed to the five boars that we had working the site in 2014 clearing the calamagrostis grass.
Ash and oaks were also making good progress on the site together with the crab apple tree from which we had had a good crop in the past. Thanks to George Batchelor’s blog on hawthorn identification I now know that I have common hawthorn on the site.
By now the boys had settled down with the smaller boar called Georgie and the other two called the Bobbsey Twins, named after our first breeding boar, lovely Bob, or for those of you who remember, the books written by Laura Lee Hope.
Having only bred our own pigs for a while these guys were taking a bit of getting used to. They were a bit like teenagers at this stage – they stayed in bed when they can and only got up for food! They were also not too happy with the warm weather and spent time in their own swimming pool. I took to feeding them really early (yawn) and later in the evening when it was cloudy and cooler and they then had their play time.
With the first few weeks of their lives spent in a straw barn it has also took them a while to get used to the local wildlife. However, by now they had learned not to bolt for cover when geese flew over or when a pheasant let out a yell. They still got a bit spooked by people but most people walking or cycling by treated them with respect – they were only youngsters after all.
Very sadly for the local residents, the Forestry Commission ended the environmental project in 2016. There are no longer any rare breed pigs enjoying life in the wood and helping to create rich wildlife habitats in the traditional way.
What a shame!