Meet the goats

The arboretum is closed while we’re in lockdown, but our team are still checking in on the goats, who are still as cheeky as ever.

In 2016 we raised nearly £1000 to fund a goat shelter and the purchase of 3 goats to come and live in the woods. They fulfill a really important role not only in our arboretum restoration work, but also in our engagement and wellbeing work.  Here’s a bit more about why we have them and who they are.

Woodland management

When we started managing the arboretum it was hard to even get through the gate and into the site due to years of under-management and neglect. The wood was overgrown with rhododendron and bramble, and we set to work clearing it by hand. Teams of volunteers offered their time, energy and enthusiasm to this task, and we made great progress, opening up areas of the arboretum and allowing wildflowers and exotic trees to flourish again. But clearing areas and keeping them clear on this 20 acre site was (and still is) a tall order when doing all this work by hand – bramble and knotweed grow back quicker than we can shake a billhook at them.  

We are committed to sustainable woodland management and know that whilst chemicals could help us keep these invasive plants down, they would also negatively impact the environment (they could kill bees and other pollinators, and potentially harm the collection of special trees we have here).  

Since 2016 the goats have been a key part of the restoration and management of the site. They love to forage in the woods, and feast on bramble, bamboo and knotweed, helping us keep paths clear and space around trees. They are of particular use with regards to the knotweed, which is almost impossible to safely dispose of in any other way!  We have to be mindful of the rhododendron and laurel (which are plentiful) as they are both poisonous to the goats, but they have learnt to follow us to the areas we want (and which are safe) to graze. We also need to be mindful of things poking out of our pockets, or dangling near the goats (like zips or scarves) as they are naughty opportunists and will have a taste of anything!  Luckily they are also fond of a digestive biscuit or two, so rustling a packet proves an effective way to entice them back into their enclosure at the end of a busy day ruminating.

Goats and people

Goats are gentle animals, and the three we have at Tortworth are no exception.  Our goats started out at St Werburghs City Farm in Bristol, so arrived with us already used to being around people. They are a friendly bunch; you might even say they are affectionate.  They come to greet anyone who approaches, and are safe to pet, making them a great addition to any events and open days we run at the arboretum. They provide a fun and tangible way for children and adults to connect with and learn about nature.  There’s definitely a therapeutic element at play here too, and often new volunteers who arrive not quite ready (for whatever reason) for big group interactions gravitate towards the animals.

Who they are


Is the smallest of the three goats and is often left out by the others. That’s probably why she’s always the first to come and say hello to people that approach (and why she’s first on this list). She has a flash of white fur down her left side, hence the name.


Is the biggest goat (not by much) and certainly thinks he’s head of the herd – Dot doesn’t seem convinced, mind!  His name is a shortening of one of the stranger goat names around – TechjunctionUK (given by a donor when we fundraised for the goats in 2016).


Can you guess why she’s got this name? She is close in size to TJ and gives as good as she gets when TJ starts to butt. But it’s not all bickering and ruckuses – Dot and TJ are often seen basking in the sun together. It’s a goat’s life!