Woolly pigs help to rewild Sharpham
Published: 13 April 2021
Two new guests on the Sharpham Estate are helping to rewild farmland with their rooting and snuffling.
A pair of Mangalitsa pigs arrived this week on the Estate near Totnes to begin turning over the land with their powerful snouts. An ITV film crew was there to document their arrival.
The pigs are covered in a coat of curly hair – one pig is ginger and one is white – and they’ve been chosen because they are the closest breed to ancient wild boar which used to roam this land generations ago.
The Mangalitsas’ boar-ish behaviour includes rooting up the grass and soil, supporting rewilding efforts by making the disturbed soil receptive to wild plant seeds.
They’ll be ‘working’ the fields for a few weeks as part of a rewilding project by The Sharpham Trust and conservation specialists Ambios Ltd.
The project – named Wild for People - has been given £144,777 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to make space for nature, assist in turning the Sharpham Estate organic, re-wild parts of its historic landscape and help more people engage with nature.
“They have taken to their new home perfectly,” said Ambios Director Jack Skuse, who witnessed their arrival.
“They immediately explored their new field, then set about rooting around – exactly what we want them to do. We need them to make a right mess!”
The adolescent Mangalitsa pigs are a Hungarian breed and they are owned by Dartmoor regenerative agriculturalist Nick Viney, who ‘rents’ them out to turn over people’s land.
Pigs have arrived a year into rewilding at Sharpham
The pigs have arrived a year into our rewilding efforts. In that year, the project’s 50 acres of farmland have been allowed to ‘rest’.
Grass has grown and diversified, tussocks of plants have developed, enabling shelter for small mammals like mice and voles and creating breeding spots for insects.
Hedgerows have been left to grow, giving shelter and places for perching birds to feed from.
In that first year, Ambios staff and trainees have reported more insects moving out from the hedges to the centre of the fields, increased numbers of Great Green bush crickets and insect & seed-eating birds like stonechats and goldfinches plus more sightings of raptors like kestrels and owls, enjoying the boost in small mammals and birds.