Cannock Chase conservation project ready to begin
Cattle to be used in a new conservation project have arrived on Cannock Chase.
The small herd is part of a Staffordshire County Council pilot scheme to manage the Chase’s natural habitat in an environmentally-friendly way.
Up to six Herefords will graze 25 hectares at Moors Gorse during the summer.
Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Communities and Culture, said:
“By law we must look after Cannock Chase’s rare plants and wildlife and we need to look at sustainable methods, such as grazing, to help manage the vegetation, prevent the land becoming overgrown and support rare heathland species.
“Conservation grazing is a recognised way of helping smaller plants to thrive and to stop scrubland and small trees growing out of control and is already used in other parts of Staffordshire.”
The scheme was due to begin last year but was delayed by the pandemic. A perimeter fence has been erected, which will allow other animals such as deer to pass through but keep the cattle within.
Gates will be placed where informal paths cross the site and later, as part of the project, ‘invisible’ fencing will be placed underground, or a GPS system used, to control the cattle’s movement within the site.
The Hereford breed is a hardy and calm native breed and is used for similar purposes in other grazing projects. No breeding animals will be used. These six Herefords have been grazing on the nearby Chasewater Country Park since spring.
Victoria Wilson added:
“Although there is grazing nearby at Chasewater, Hednesford Hills and in other parts of Staffordshire such as the Roaches, the pilot grazing scheme at Moors Gorse will enable us to introduce the idea carefully in a small area and let people see how it works in practice.”
Staffordshire County Council has a statutory responsibility for the 1,300 hectares of Cannock Chase Country Park and the 26 square mile Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that it lies within, containing plants and species of such national and international importance that it is also listed as both a Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The range of flora and fauna includes herds of fallow deer, four of Britain’s six reptile species, rare and endangered birds including the woodlark and nightjar, and some seldom found plants and invertebrates.
In 2019 the authority signed a further 10-year management agreement with Natural England, the government’s nature conservation agency, to protect the site, which is identified at national and European level as having significantly important wildlife areas.