Anicent breed Gloucester's at Hinton
As a nation we’ve lost 97 per cent of wildflower meadows since the 1930s. This staggering loss has stripped our bugs, butterflies, bumblebees, small birds and mammals of their natural homes and contributed to a devastating decline in our wildlife population. In an effort to do reverse this deterioration, we've introduced a small herd of Gloucester cattle to the parkland behind Hinton's house. And, since their short time in the parkland, we've already seen an increase in the numbers and types of wildflowers, to the benefit of the wildlife and to the enjoyment of our visitors.
Working in partnership with a local grazier Nic O’Connell, Ranger Paul Collin's has introduced a small herd of Gloucester cattle to Hinton's parkland. An ancient, native breed, Gloucester cows have been around since the 13th century. Their popularity perhaps due to their docile and amenable nature, and happiness to share their territory with both animal and human visitors.
Livestock grazing and wildlife conservation
Cattle grazing is hugely benefivial in the management of grasslands. The cows eat the lush, more dominant grasses, removing nutrients, and allowing other plants to develop. This makes the parkland more attractive to wildlife.Cow dung is also very beneficial to wildlife, providing food and a home to insects such as the hornet robberfly, and to fungi.
" It’s a very therapeutic thing, watching the cows graze on a summer’s day over this landscape. It’s such a beautiful place and I love coming to soak up the views. And of course it’s great to know that we’re helping support a rare breed, as well as Hampshire’s wildlife. It really is a win-win situation."
What's the impact been so far?
Since their introduction, we've seen the Common blue butterflies make a return, which have a special relationship with ant hills, which wouldn’t exist if we controlled the grass with machinery. Meadow browns and marbled whites have also been sighted.
This year there’s been a big increase in cowslips - there were just one or two last year. And very excitingly, we’ve seen barn owls too - an endangered species. This is an indicator that the low grassland is making hunting for mammals like voles and shrews easier.
We’ve given the parkland’s depleted seed bank a bit of a helping hand in other ways too. There are no longer any field margins that would allow seeds to move across naturally, so we’ve spread wildflower seed including wild marjoram and orchids from a similar landscape in Selborne.