Barns fit for the future at Woolbeding Countryside

A pair of majestic belted Galloway cattlelay amongst the bracken at Woolbeding Common

The team at Woolbeding Countryside in the South Downs are rightly proud of their native breed Sussex and Belted Galloway cattle and their flock of Herdwick sheep. They keep the heathland, downland and meadows in tip-top condition for wildlife as part of land management plans. They also graze neighbouring commons owned by Murray Downland Trust and Natural England

The team has built a new livestock barn to work better with the stock and ensure the best possible standards of animal husbandry are met. They’ve also conserved the historic barns at Pound Common Estate Yard for office and learning spaces. These major improvements  are thanks to a generous grant from the Monument Trust.

" The stock live a hardy life on the commons but from time to time we need to gather them in. These new facilities allow us to do this in the best possible manner. We want to provide the best 21st century farming standards for the animals in our care"
- Simon Craig, Head Ranger

Cattle are an essential part of conservation management.  Heathland and chalk grassland are man-made habitats that were created by clearing ancient forests around 5,000 years ago.  This formed large open expanses of land which were kept clear by grazing animals including sheep and cattle.  Areas such as these which are simply grazed and have never been ploughed or fertilized have now become some of our richest and most diverse habitats.  Traditional breeds of sheep and cattle, such as Herdwicks and Belted Galloways, are used by the Trust to continue the tradition of grazing on downland and heathland sites. 

Belted galloway feeding from trough at new cattle barn, Pound Common
Belted galloway feeding from trough at new cattle barn, Pound Common, South Downs

The apparently simple action of grazing is vital to keep a variety of grassland - from short and tightly grazed to longer patches with tall herbs. This way we manage the coarser more invasive species, keeping an open landscape abundant in wildflowers and grasses.  This allows space for our rich diversity of summer flowers to thrive along with all the wildlife they attract.  Belted Galloways have a placid nature making them the ideal breed to have grazing open access areas, or places where visitors enjoy walking.  An amazing fact is that a cowpat can support up to 250 species of insect and in turn provide food for birds, badgers and bats.

Views from the common
Stunning mix of purple heather and yellow gorse with views from the common