Conservation grazing at Longshaw

A cow and her young calf are helping us with our conservation grazing aims across the Longshaw Estate

Farming has been part of the Longshaw landscape for centuries and livestock have played a key role in shaping and diversifying the landscape. Learn more about conservation grazing that is taking place at Longshaw.

Grazing matters

Farming has been part of the Longshaw landscape for centuries, with the archaeological remains of two Saxon farmsteads on the Estate and a Bronze Age farming settlement on the moor above Toads mouth. Traditionally farms would have been self-sufficient, with a mixture of livestock providing many products. Today, our livestock at Longshaw are helping us with our nature conservation and through their grazing are shaping and diversifying the landscape.

Livestock graze the land in alternative ways to provide different benefits to wildlife in the most natural way without using machinery. Conservation grazing is part of the Rangers 'Conservation Management Plan’ which was created with the support of National Trust specialists and Natural England.

A lamb peacefully grazing at Longshaw
A lamb peacefully grazing at Longshaw
A lamb peacefully grazing at Longshaw

At Longshaw you will see a mixture of sheep and cattle grazing  - which is key to having a healthy balance in terms of the landscape. Sheep are like lawnmowers who slowly eat everything back to ground level, they often seek out things that are appealing to eat like herbs, flowers and tree seedlings. Cattle on the other hand, graze on grasses and plants but do so in a way that leaves the vegetation at different heights which then opens up spaces for flowers and insects to live, and leaves the occasional tree seedling to grow. Cattle are also heavier than sheep, their hooves create pockets of bare ground for flower seeds or heather seeds to fall into and germinate, creating a more dynamic and diverse vegetation structure. When out and about dodging cow pats -  you might be surpirsed to learn that even cow dung has an incredible use and provides nutrients for insects and fungi to thrive in.

When you walk around Longshaw and you see our cattle grazing,  they are helping to restore our Wood pasture on the Sheffield Plantation and improve the moorland habitat on Burbage Brook and White Edge.

A curious young cow
A curious young cow
A curious young cow

Walking in areas with livestock

The Peak District is a working landscape, with farms dotted throughout the area. Springtime is when the cows and sheep return to the fields to graze, so this year we’ve created some simple and practical tips on understanding the behavior of farm animals and how best to react when you encounter them on your walk. We hope this will help build understanding and confidence around livestock if it’s something you’re not used to.

Here are some pointers on things to be aware of when walking near cattle. We’ve compiled this information from a variety of sources such as the NFU, BMC and the Ramblers Association – as well as farmers and rangers. We hope you find it useful.


  • Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Take a moment at the point of entry. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves, or if you have a dog, sheep with lambs. Let them see you and observe how they react. Look out for any other visitors or dogs crossing the field that may be making them react as well.

  • Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves, mothers are protective of their young.

  • Like us, cattle are easily startled. Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you. Also, young cows are curious and if you have a rucksack or bag, they may think there is some food in it so may follow you out of interest.

  • Stick together if you are in a group; be visible and obvious to the cows, but not loud please

  • Move fairly quickly and quietly, but do not run and if possible walk around the herd, maintain your distance – you don’t have to stay on the footpath.

  • Please keep your dog close, on a short lead, and under effective control

  • Remember to close gates behind you when walking through fields containing livestock (but leave them as you find them if they link adjoining fields)

  • Report any incidents to the landowner

  • Keep us informed of any problems you experience


  • Don’t hang onto your dog if you are threatened by cattle - let it go as the cattle will chase the dog and not you

  • Don’t put yourself at risk by walking close to cattle or trying to take a “selfie” near them

  • Don’t panic or run or startle them – most cattle will stop before they reach you; if they follow you just walk on quietly, keeping eye contact.

Cattle on your path?

  • What can you do when cattle are obstructing the path? Find another way, by going around the cattle. If cattle are blocking a path through a field, you’re well within your rights to find a safe way, away from the path to avoid them. You should then re-join the footpath as soon as possible and when you consider it safe to do so.

  • Pick a route that does not box you or the cows into a tight space

  • At dusk and dawn especially, cattle are more fearful, protective and vigilant. This is because it was when predators like wolves (long gone from the British landscape) would have attacked.

  • Like people, cows come in all temperaments – they are used to interacting with people, especially farmers and their handlers but they can still react unpredictably when surprised, startled or frightened.

The beautiful landscape of Longshaw, helped by conservation grazing
The beautiful landscape of Longshaw, helped by conservation grazing
The beautiful landscape of Longshaw, helped by conservation grazing

Cattle locations

If you are feeling unsure or are still building your confidence up around cattle, then it's best to avoid the areas where they are grazing. At Longshaw, cows are grazing in Lawrence Field, across the Sheffield Plantation and Greenwood. Download our estate map here to give you an idea of the places where cattle are grazing.