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Conservation grazing at Crickley

Belted Galloway cattle at Crickley Hill, Gloucestershire
Belted Galloway cattle at Crickley Hill | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The grazing that the native, pure-bred Belted Galloway cows provide is essential to the conservation of the Gloucestershire grasslands such as those at Crickley Hill. They produce the best possible conditions to help wildlife to flourish. Find out more about how they help look after this special place.

Crickley’s Belties

Crickley Hill’s herd of Belted Galloway cattle - affectionately known as Belties - live under the watchful eye of the ranger team 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.

A timeline of the herd


The first heifers

We bought our first heifers, naming them Beatrice, Brandy, Zelda and Voy. Another heifer, Annie, joined the group later in the year.

How the herd helps

Grassland decline

The dramatic decline in Cotswold limestone grassland is mostly down to the intensification of farming. To make land more profitable, many farmers changed to growing crops like wheat and barley. The lack of traditional grazing has allowed coarse grasses to take over, swamping low-growing grasses and herbs.

Grazing the slopes

Some important limestone grasslands haven't been grazed for decades with the grasses lacking many nutrients. These areas are often small and fragmented and in exposed locations with steep slopes making commercial grazing difficult.

Fit for purpose

Belties are a hardy breed. Their second layer of hair and excellent waterproofing means they can withstand bitter winter conditions on the Cotswold escarpment.

Belted Galloway Cattle Tarn Hows, Lake District, Cumbria
The Belties are experts at grazing | © National Trust / Paul Harris

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 is vital for conserving the unique flora and fauna of the limestone grasslands in Gloucestershire. The cows keep the grass at just the right height for wildlife to thrive.

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 needed. 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.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

Woodland around Crickley Hill, country park land near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire


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