A small herd of highland cattle have been working hard over the autumn to clear scrub and small trees from the Old Hills, Callow End.
Highland cattle, a breed with characteristics suitable for grazing on rougher ground, have been nibbling off the young saplings and brambles to open up areas for grassland species to recolonise.
Some areas of the Old Hills have gradually become more and more overgrown with scrub and trees which has reduced the amount of traditional open grassland habitat here and restricted the access of visitors to the Old Hills. The reintroduction of grazing for short periods over the last couple of years has helped to restore some of these open areas. Although the Old Hills are common land and so people can expect to see livestock there at any time, the cattle were kept in small, temporary, electric-fenced enclosures to focus their grazing efforts on thicker scrub areas.
Mark Roberts, Deputy Conservation Officer, who’s been working on the grazing project said ‘By maintaining the grassland using natural and traditional methods we are working to preserve habitats, maintain landscape character, open up views and keep the common accessible for people to enjoy. We can see that over the last two months the cattle have worked their way through the scrub and opened up areas that were impenetrable.'
The Old Hills were once grazed by cattle and sheep all year round by local farmers. The land is still registered as common land which means that at any time, commoners with grazing rights can put their livestock up on the Old Hills. When the last cattle and sheep left the Old Hills, as grazing here became uneconomical and the roads got busier, the trees and scrub started to encroach the grassland and these open areas were lost.
We'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the visitors of the Old Hills who took care to keep their dogs under close control to minimise disturbance to the cattle.
The cattle are set to return to the Old Hills next year to continue their work to open up the common so we look forward to seeing their furry faces again in 2018.