A HERD of wild goats introduced in a south Essex beauty spot in a bid to find an “eco-friendly” way to manage the grassland have been hailed a huge success one year on.

Last December, Basildon Council drafted in wild Cheviot goats with huge horns and gorgeous marbled coats to help manage the South Essex Marshes without the need the machinery.

The goats have now spent a year living and grazing at the marshes, which are a vast path of grassland and beds of reed which stretches from Tilbury all the way to Leigh.

The goats’ grazing was intended to prevent the spread of noxious weeds and promote vegetative species while they also keep grass levels low which help prevent wildfires and create manure, enriching the soil.

Jeff Henry, Basildon councillor responsible for health, wellbeing, leisure, arts and culture, said: “Last year we welcomed Cheviot goats to the South Essex Marshes for grazing.

“This means we can manage the land in an eco-friendly way without machinery, and allow for a variety of wildflowers and diverse habitats to form.

“Since their introduction, the goats have done a great job munching the scrub and suppressing its regrowth, forming a mosaic of habitats across the site.”

Studies are supportive of goat grazing as a more effective method than chemicals in controlling the growth and spread of phragmites – an invasive thick-stalked reed that grows in marshes and can reach up to 13 feet in height.

The reed has been proven to be damaging to wetland ecology by crowding out native plants which degrades wildlife habitat.

Visitors might be lucky to spot the goats but are asked not to approach or feed the goats, and not to walk dogs through the field.

Mr Henry added: “There has been a huge increase in flora diversity, improving the biodiversity of the site.

“Sites like this are an important part of our ambition to become net-zero.”

The marshes are looked after by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) alongside local authorities.