While we’re all familiar with Exmoor’s Ponies, you might not know that the moor is also home to feral goat herds, which are believed to have been there for just as long, if not longer than their neighbours. As we can’t go to their home of Lynton and the Valley of the Rocks at the moment, we’re bringing them to you with these fun facts about North Devon’s wild goats!
The wild goats can be found at the Valley of the Rocks, one of the region’s most beautiful places. It is within the Exmoor National Park and is a ten minute walk from the centre of Lynton. For those that don’t know the Valley of the Rocks is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Site of Special Geological Interest. While it appears to be natural, some of the boulders in the valley have been found to be the remnants of Neolithic Stone Circles.
Speaking of those Neolithic Stone Circles, local historians know that Neolithic people lived in the region and many suspect that they kept herds of goats, meaning that at least some of the region’s wild goats could be their descendants.
In fact, we know the goats have been on Exmoor for as long, if not longer, than Exmoor Ponies because they get a mention in the Doomsday Book, which lists a record for 75 goats in the Manor of Lyntonia – the former name of Lynton.
Just like the Exmoor Ponies, the goats are protected. The Lynton Feral Goat Preservation Society was formed in 1997 to ensure the conservation of the herd.
Local history shows that some goats were removed from the valley in the mid 19th century and that another herd of white goats, believed to be from the Royal Herd at Sandringham, were released onto the moor. However, these all but died out by the 1960s. Three more wild goats were released in the valley in the 1970s and the herd has flourished ever since.
Over the years since the 1970s, as the herd grew, surplus goats have been rehomed into other areas, including Lundy Island in a bit to revitalise herds elsewhere in the UK.
One of the goats, a billy known as Blossom, became a bit of a local celebrity before his death after appearing on an episode of Animal Rescue after being rescued by a helicopter from a ledge. He isn’t the only famous goat, one of the herds even got a mention in Lorna Doone, an epic romance novel set on Exmoor.
Have you ever spotted the goats of Exmoor? If so, we’d love to see your photos, make sure to tag us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Please be aware that the UK is currently under a national lockdown and restrictions apply, please do not visit Exmoor at this time – the goats will still be there when we are able to travel again! For the latest government advice and guidelines, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.