Goats on the move

Some of the new Puffing Billy goats in their fenced off area. 206481 Pictures: ROMY STEPHENS

Puffing Billy conducted this year’s volunteer induction on 12 March, but not all inductees had two legs.

As the railway began its annual training with five new human volunteer recruits, it also welcomed the addition of 10 volunteer goats.

A space of overgrown land has been fenced off at Puffing Billy’s Belgrave station so goats can keep grass, blackberries and weeds down at steep embankments around the railway.

Puffing Billy’s recruitment officer Sharon Corbier said she got in touch with Colin Arnold from GrazeAway after she heard about his goats across the road at Metro’s Belgrave Station.

“We were having a meeting in here one day and talking about all the weeds and the blackberries and it was growing really fast,” she said.

“We couldn’t have anybody whipper snip it or brush cut it because it’s too dangerous and we can’t poison it because we’re very environmentally sensitive and we didn’t want to do that.

“We’d heard about the goats next door at Metro and I said why don’t we do that?”

After the two met up and fencing was established Mr Arnold said he decided to lend Puffing Billy his goats, rather than hire them out.

“I went there and pretty quickly realised they could have them free of charge,” he said.

“They’ve got so many volunteers that I thought it’s probably just better…If I can supply them with some goats that would be a nice thing.”

GrazeAway is a business that aims to restore habitat and control invasive weeds without the use of herbicides, in sensitive areas such as waterways, by using goats.

Mr Arnold’s goats have been making their way around Belgrave after first setting up at Metro’s Belgrave Station and then moving over to Puffing Billy.

However, one of the Belgrave Station goats was recently vandalised with graffiti.

“It is a complete winner from every angle the only issue is if something decides to paint a goat,” Mr Arnold said.

“Of all the things that have happened in all the years I’ve been doing this, that’s the only negative thing that has happened.”

Ms Corbier said that since their first night, the goats have settled in well at Puffing Billy.

“The very first night that the goats came, the train coming in scared them with all the steam so they all ran underneath their shelter,” she said.

She added that they help demonstrate the importance of volunteers at Puffing Billy, no matter their shape or form.

“The railway could not run without our volunteers, they’re the lifeblood of the organisation for sure,” she said.

“We’re so happy to have them and we, of course, need to have as many volunteers as we can four-legged and two-legged, we’re happy to have both.

“It’s a win-win situation, the goats do their job and it’s just a lovely thing to have around the railway.”