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Cambridge City Council

Conservation grazing returns to Local Nature Reserve in East Barnwell

9 November 2023

Cattle have been reintroduced to the Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in East Barnwell to help with the ongoing efforts to improve biodiversity on the site and enhance wildlife habitats.

The Barnwell East LNR is a precious mix of woodland, scrub and grassland in the east of Cambridge, which is managed by Cambridge City Council with the support of dedicated volunteers.

Conservation grazing helps to form a more complex mosaic of habitats and micro habitats than can be achieved through cutting by hand or with machinery. This is because cattle are selective about where they feed, grazing around features such as ant hills and encouraging key invertebrates like Dor Beetles, which help build soil ecosystems and provide food for larger species such as birds and bats.

Grazing late in the autumn means the cattle will target shrubs and tough vegetation that otherwise encroach onto grassland areas, threatening to smother scarcer plant species such as bee orchids. It is also hoped the cows will help to tackle non-native plants, such as michaelmas daisies that have become established on the reserve and can outcompete native flora unless kept in check.

The four red poll cows – a traditional, hardy East Anglian breed – will graze the reserve for the next few weeks, and their effects will be monitored to establish future numbers and timing of grazing to best manage the reserve’s habitats alongside the ongoing efforts of the local Wildlife Trust volunteer work.

The LNR remains open to the public for quiet recreation and signs have been placed at the entrance requesting dog walkers to keep their dogs under close control. As with grazing on all council sites we request that people enjoy the cattle from a respectful distance.

Cllr Sam Carling, Executive Councillor for Open Spaces and City Services, said: “I’m delighted that we’re able to have cattle return to the reserve after a long absence and look forward to seeing how low-level conservation grazing improves the habitats of the reserve.

“This supports important work that is being carried out through the Cambridge Nature Network – a partnership of landowners and organisations working together to help deliver large scale recovery of nature in and around the city.

“Our local nature reserves are home to wildlife habitats and make an important contribution to local biodiversity. As outlined in our Biodiversity Strategy we aim to protect and enhance wildlife habitats, helping to mitigate the impacts that climate change is having.”