Livestock have been reintroduced to an area of Battlemead Common, north of Maidenhead, in an exciting new trial designed to help enhance biodiversity at the site.
Almost 40 cows - Herefords and a Belted Galloway - are now located in the east field, with some of the herd due to be moved into the north field soon. Both fields are designated as grazing marsh priority habitat by Natural England.
Conservation grazing is an effective and sustainable way to maintain and improve certain habitats and is used successfully across the country by various wildlife and conservation charities. It means areas don’t become overgrown, encouraging a diverse range of plants and animals, including invertebrates, amphibians, birds, and, in turn, small mammals to thrive.
Later in the autumn they will be removed from the fields to prevent overgrazing and sheep will be placed on just the east field. They will remain there through the winter until spring next year when they will be removed and the fields will be left to rest until July. They will then be cut and the hay collected before the cattle are reintroduced as a balanced way of managing the fields for the benefit of biodiversity.
The cattle are being provided by a National Trust tenant farmer, from the Greys Court estate, near Henley, and will be managed by the farmer on behalf of the council. Battlemead Common was formerly farmland that was grazed before it was purchased by the Royal Borough in 2018.
East field already has a completely fenced pathway running along its boundary as well as the Causeway path to the south of the site. A footpath running along the boundary of north field is currently fenced on one side and fencing will need to be installed along the other. Dogs are already required to be on a lead on this section of the pathway in order to protect these sensitive wildlife habitats. Two new gates, which will still allow public access, will be introduced in the north field to prevent the cows from roaming onto the Thames Path.
Councillor David Coppinger, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services, Parks & Countryside & Maidenhead, said: “This is an exciting addition to our nature conservation management programme and will be a fascinating feature for Battlemead Common that I hope will be welcomed and be of great interest to visitors, as well nature and conservation groups.
“We have a unique opportunity to trial the re-introduction of livestock on a site with two important marsh priority habitat areas that lend themselves perfectly to conservation grazing. As a council, we are committed to protecting and improving our natural environment and this is an effective and exciting way of achieving this at Battlemead Common.
“From a heritage perspective, I hope it also offers those enjoying the area a glimpse into the past and how this landscape would have been managed for hundreds of years previously. When people walk through Battlemead they will be seeing a traditional farming practice that dates back to medieval times.”