Cattle help maintain rare habitat in Kielder Water & Forest Park

Forestry Commission ecologist Tom Dearnley with Simmental cattle on a mission to munch their way through vegetation in Kielder.

Forestry Commission ecologist Tom Dearnley with Simmental cattle on a mission to munch their way through vegetation in Kielder.

Eco-warriors are being given something to chew on in a bid to improve wildlife habitats in Kielder Water & Forest Park.

The Forestry Commission has recruited a small number of Simmental cattle for the first time, owned by local farmer Ray Nichol, to graze a precious mosaic of grassland and woodland in the 62,000 hectare Northumberland beauty-spot.

Forest chiefs want to see if the animals can help encourage a more diverse eco-system in this unique area of Kielder Forest by feeding, tramping and dropping dung on the 9.5 hectare site at Plashetts, part of which is ancient semi-natural woodland.
Grazing livestock in hunting forests, parks and chases, known collectively as wood pasture, was once widespread and scenes depicting this habitat remain a romantic image of the English rural landscape.
Tom Dearnley, Forestry Commission Ecologist, explained:

Small-pearl bordered fritillary butterfly could benefit from the scheme. Credit Graham Jackson.

Small-pearl bordered fritillary butterfly could benefit from the scheme. Credit Graham Jackson.

“Wood pasture is a rare habitat in Northumberland and this is a really great opportunity to see how livestock influence native woodland eco-systems. Among species which could benefit are plants such as orchids and insects that live in sheltered grassland glades like the small-pearl bordered fritillary butterfly.”

Kielder contains eight ancient woodland sites in addition to producing 25% of all English grown timber.


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