Conservation Grazing at Crickley Hill
Crickley Hill’s herd of Belted Galloway cattle - affectionately known as Belties - live under the watchful eye of National Trust Livestock Ranger, Kate Jones, and play a pivotal role in conservation work at Crickley Hill. They have a big fan base thanks to their distinctive appearance (black coats with a wide white belt around their middles) and placid nature (which means they are untroubled by Crickley’s visitors).
Kate says: ‘All the cattle have their own personalities and quirks. We have developed an exceptionally calm herd and some will even follow me around. We name them after flora and fauna and run through the alphabet, so last year’s heifers had names like Lilac, Lime and Liquorice.’
Fit for Purpose
Belties are also a hardy breed. Their second layer of hair and excellent waterproofing means they can withstand bitter winter conditions on the Cotswold escarpment.
They are experts at grazing steep slopes, devouring grasses many other animals would find less palatable. Their gentle grazing plays a critical role in conserving Crickley’s indigenous wild flowers and supporting biodiversity. With their help, delicate plants and herbs (including marjoram, thyme, vetches and rare orchids) and a wide range of wildlife (such as butterflies and beetles) are thriving. In some areas of Crickley Hill, there are as many as 40 different species within a single square metre.
Grazing across the Cotswolds
‘During calving season the Belties are kept in paddocks so we can keep a close eye on the expectant mothers and step in if needs be,’ continues Kate. ‘At other times of the year, they graze on Crickley Hill as well as other National Trust land in the Cotswolds, including the Ebworth estate and Boundary Court near Stroud. They also graze land owned by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Natural England and Butterfly Conservation and sometimes they graze on local farms if landowners want help improving the quality of their grassland.
‘There’s an intrinsic link between the Belties, their grazing and Crickley’s wildlife. Visitors to Crickley will find some of the nation’s most scarce butterflies, ground beetles and bugs. It’s a hive of activity in the summer!’