Renowned wildlife photographer Graham Hatherley captured aerial images that show the impact the rare breed pigs have had on the Wilder Field on Bere Marsh Farm in Dorset. 

Three Oxford Sandy and Black gilts spent the summer in Nine Acres, the location of the farm's Wilder Field project. To increase the diversity of the habitats on the farm, this area won't be grazed for several years, to allow tussocky grassland and scattered scrub to develop. 

The pigs were brought onto the farm to kick start this process. By following their natural instinct to rootle, turning over the soil to find minerals or food like invertebrates and roots, they loosen the earth and create areas of bare ground.

Graham's images, captured with a drone, show these bare patches and the tracks created by the routes the pigs followed to their favourite rootling areas.

Sue Everett, CRT Chair, said: "The CRT's three little piggies have done sterling work, scuffing up the turf and making space for a bigger diversity of wild plants to take root as our Wilder Field project develops. 

"What plants do we expect? We don't know! We will mostly let nature choose a course but we have scattered seed of some wetland species and grey willow. Floodwater will no doubt bring further surprises by transporting seed onto the land in the River Stour's flow. 

"We also hope to carry out some reverse drainage work in this field in the future. This will help keep the field wetter during spring and summer."

Wessex Rivers Trust is carrying out an assessment to identify how best to restore natural hydrological processes to the floodplain fields beside the River Stour at Bere Marsh Farm, resulting in a wetter and more diverse river valley. This will help to remove nutrients from water that flows through the farm from elsewhere, as well as improve the floodplain grassland habitat for plants, birds and insects that need damp ground. Wessex Water is funding this research. Read more about this work here.

Free-range pork products were sold in a pop-up sale on the farm and we were delighted with how well they were received by the local community. We hope to rear pigs on the farm again next year.

PUBLISHED: 16th November 2023