The concept of grazing a small number of cattle on the By-the-Way SANG was discussed with and endorsed by Colehill Parish Council at a meeting with East Dorset Countryside Management 18 months or so ago, when the concepts of the pond, walkways and play areas were first mooted and before work had started on the site.
It makes good sense to graze a few cattle, selected from the grazing herd of around 400 (which already rotate around 15 sites under the management of this same team), for a few weeks a year. The proposed low-density grazing, between 6 and 10 cattle, for 4-5 weeks in a year, will be almost invisible in the landscape and will provide an economical and environmentally sound alternative to labour intensive mechanical cutting.
Grazing cattle are already deployed on nearby Leigh Common, Holt Heath and Slop Bog LNR (Ferndown), where they co-exist peacefully with dog-walkers, children and wildlife. The cattle selected for the By-the-Way site will be from a working herd and may include yearlings, however there will not be any young calves and their (sometimes) over-protective mothers. Many of these animals have grown up alongside people, their dogs and children. The deployment will be closely monitored for any problems, however the team have considerable experience of low-intensity grazing herds and no problems are anticipated.
When the work first started on the landscaping and walkways there were voices of protest, which are now silent. We anticipate that in another year or two people will be looking forward to seeing their favourite cow (to which they will have given a name) on the SANG and they will miss the herd when it is moved on.
For the benefit of the uninitiated: SANG is an acronym: Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace – being an area, close to the community, which is set aside and enhanced for recreational activities – walking, jogging, dog-walking, cycling, kite-flying etc – to take the pressure off the protected heathland and its wildlife.
The photograph shows Belted Galloway cattle, grazing on other land managed by the East Dorset Countryside team.