Posted on Thursday 14th January 2021
Grazing is recommended as a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way of managing vegetation to prevent land becoming overgrown and support rare species.
Work to introduce a cattle-grazing conservation project on part of Cannock Chase is beginning this month.
Staffordshire County Council is introducing the small-scale scheme at Moors Gorse as part of its duty to manage the Chase’s natural habitat in an environmentally-friendly way.
Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Communities and Culture, said:
By law we must look after Cannock Chase’s 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.
This scheme involves up to six cattle in one small area. No rights of way are affected and informal paths will be kept open.”
Work was due to begin in spring 2020 but was delayed by onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. A perimeter fence will be 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 cattle will be a traditional British breed noted for its placidity and no breeding animals will be used.
Victoria Wilson added:
Although there is grazing nearby at Hednesford 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 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.
- Staffordshire County Council is obliged by law to preserve Cannock Chase’s natural habitats and Natural England, as the regulator, requires us to incorporate a range of environmentally-friendly methods to control bracken, trees and scrub to manage the land, prevent it becoming overgrown and ensure it achieves good ecological condition.
- Consultation began on this project in 2016. In 2017 we received more than 300 responses from individuals, user groups and parish councils and then developed the proposals in 2018 with a working party including local user groups, a parish council and sports and recreation bodies.
- Although there is an anticipation that grazing will be extended during the 2020s to some other parts of Cannock Chase, that cannot happen without a formal public consultation and subsequent approval by the Secretary of State through the Planning Inspectorate.
- The status of Cannock Chase will remain unchanged. It is legally protected because much of it is common land and it is designated as both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation, within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.